Works

Da pacem Domine

2004 / 2006

Scored for

soloists or choir (SATB) a cappella

Duration

6 min

Short description

Arvo Pärt received the original impetus for composing his Latin vocal piece, Da pacem Domine (Latin for “Give us peace, Lord”), from Jordi Savall, a virtuoso gambist and researcher of early music, who commissioned it for his peace concert. Savall had the idea to put together a concert programme under a common theme based on Da pacem Domine, a 9th century Gregorian antiphon, and music from different centuries based either on its text or its melody.

Therefore, Arvo Pärt has built his work on the melody of the antiphon (which can be heard in the alto part) and added three polyphonic voices composed using the tintinnabuli technique. This is an exceptional case in Pärt’s music because he usually does not quote Gregorian chant in his works. However, Pärt h…

Arvo Pärt received the original impetus for composing his Latin vocal piece, Da pacem Domine (Latin for “Give us peace, Lord”), from Jordi Savall, a virtuoso gambist and researcher of early music, who commissioned it for his peace concert. Savall had the idea to put together a concert programme under a common theme based on Da pacem Domine, a 9th century Gregorian antiphon, and music from different centuries based either on its text or its melody.

Therefore, Arvo Pärt has built his work on the melody of the antiphon (which can be heard in the alto part) and added three polyphonic voices composed using the tintinnabuli technique. This is an exceptional case in Pärt’s music because he usually does not quote Gregorian chant in his works. However, Pärt has composed this piece like a motet in the spirit of Renaissance music, using the traditional cantus firmus* method and structuring the form with cadenzas typical of Renaissance music. Another association with the performance practices of early music is the fact that Pärt simply composed Da pacem Domine as four-part music and did not designate the exact set of performers. At the same time, the unfixed set of timbres is also characteristic of several of his other works (Pari intervallo, Fratres etc.) and was especially relevant in his early tintinnabuli works of the 1970s. So far, there are nine different versions of the music for Da pacem Domine for various instrumental settings: for cellos, saxophones, recorders, voices and orchestra among others.

Da pacem Domine premiered in summer 2004 in Barcelona, performed by the early music ensemble Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Jordi Savall. The entire concert was dedicated to the memory of the victims of the bomb attack in Madrid in March of the same year. This piece by Pärt is sometimes considered a direct dedication to the victims of the terror attack in Madrid, as the piece was indeed finished a few days after this act of terror. However, Da pacem Domine is in fact a universal prayer for peace about the pain and suffering of all of humankind, expressing a firm belief that God is our only true protection, especially during restless times.

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* Cantus firmus ("fixed song") is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.

World premiere

29.03.2005
Propstei St. Gerold's Church, St Gerold, Austria

Concert: The Hilliard Ensemble, Paul Hillier

The Hilliard Ensemble, Paul Hillier

Completion year

2004

Revision year

2006

Commissioned by

Jordi Savall

Scored for

soloists or choir (SATB) a cappella

Duration

6 min

Publishers

Universal Edition

Language

Latin

Vocal text

Gregorian antiphon "Da pacem Domine"

Da pacem Domine
in diebus nostris
quia non est alius
qui pugnet pro nobis
nisi tu Deus noster.


Give peace, O Lord, in our time
Because there is no one else
Who will fight for us
If not You, our God.
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