In Praise of Arvo Part (i)

Born in Estonia in 1935, Part is one of those composers who took a while to find his voice. Of his early pieces, the most enjoyable is Solfeggio (1964), in which unaccompanied voices overlay each other. Doubtless being in the USSR imposed constraints on him, as it did on other composers, although while living in an oppressive environment most have […]

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Henryk Gorecki, John Tavener and Arvo Part

Some years ago three composers who seemed to be doing similar things came to prominence at about the same time. It is now becoming easier to separate them. Henryk Gorecki, a Pole, died recently, and his fame will largely rest on one piece, his Symphony no. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) for orchestra and soprano. It’s a very moving composition with an emotional intensity […]

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Notes on Genesis (xxxii) Abram leaves home

‘Get out from your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you.’ (Gen 12:1) Abram’s departure from Haran to Canaan stands at the beginning of the patriarchal narratives. His father Terah had led the family from Ur of the Chaldeans to the northwest along Mesopotamia; now, following the death of Terah, God commands Abram to continue to […]

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Byrd on Jerusalem

Among the extrordinarily talented composers of Tudor England, none stands higher than William Byrd. He was something of an outsider, being a convinced Catholic in a country that was increasingly identifying itself by its adherence to Protestantism, and while he composed some beautiful pieces for Anglican liturgy his most powerful sacred music is, explicitly or implicity, composed with the old religion […]

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A Century

Things can creep up on you without your being aware of them, and only after putting up the last post did I realise that it was the hundredth on this site. This may be a good occasion to thank all of you who support it. Last month there were over two thousand pages views from the United States, one thousand from […]

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Anestis Keselopoulos on St Gregory Palamas: Repentance and Purification

In the third chapter of his book Passions and Virtues, Anestis Keselopoulos expresses the teaching of St Gregory Palamas on repentance. ‘Repentance is not a short-lived contrition arising from the awareness that some sin has been committed. It is a permanent spiritual state…the new frame of mind and correct spiritual course that must accompany man until the moment of his […]

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Sebastian Faulks’ A Week in December (2009)

This novel follows a group of characters during the week preceding a large dinner party held in London at the end of 2007. Two narrative lines are developed in detail. A young man has joined a group of young Muslims planning an act of terror that may impact on the lives of other characters, while a hedge fund trader in the City plots […]

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