Works

Lamentate

2002

Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture ‘Marsyas’

Scored for

piano and symphony orchestra

Duration

35–40 min

Short description

Composed for piano and orchestra, Lamentate (also LamenTate) was commissioned by London’s Tate Modern and was inspired by Marsyas, the giant sculpture by Anish Kapoor (b. 1954), the British sculptor and multimedia artist of Indian origin. Hence the subtitle of the work, Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture Marsyas.

Kapoor’s installation was intended to work as an interaction between visual-spatial and acoustic qualities. In composing the piece, Pärt also considered the specific acoustics of the space where Kapoor’s sculpture was displayed – the turbine hall of an old power house. This is also where Lamentate was premiered on 7 February 2003, performed by pianist Hélène Grimaud, and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Al…

Composed for piano and orchestra, Lamentate (also LamenTate) was commissioned by London’s Tate Modern and was inspired by Marsyas, the giant sculpture by Anish Kapoor (b. 1954), the British sculptor and multimedia artist of Indian origin. Hence the subtitle of the work, Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture Marsyas.

Kapoor’s installation was intended to work as an interaction between visual-spatial and acoustic qualities. In composing the piece, Pärt also considered the specific acoustics of the space where Kapoor’s sculpture was displayed – the turbine hall of an old power house. This is also where Lamentate was premiered on 7 February 2003, performed by pianist Hélène Grimaud, and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Alexander Briger. Pärt made amendments to the piece after the premiere and the revised version of Lamentate premiered on 10 November 2003 at the Sejny Festival in Poland, performed by Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann and the Bialystok Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste.

In Greek mythology, the satyr Marsyas was flayed alive by Apollo, the god of light, truth and fine arts, for daring to challenge him to a contest of music. Anish Kapoor’s take on the legend of Marsyas was the 150-metre-long, 35-metre-high bright red sculpture reminiscent of a flayed human body. Marsyas consisted of three steel rings joined together by a single span of plastic cover material, forming a trumpet-like shape.

Arvo Pärt: “My first impression was that I, as a living being, was standing before my own body and was dead – as in a time-warp perspective, at once in the future and the present. /.../ Death and suffering are the themes that concern every person born into this world. The way in which the individual comes to terms with these issues (or fails to do so) determines his attitude towards life – whether consciously or unconsciously. With its great size, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture shatters not only the concepts of space, but also – in my view – concepts of time. The boundary between time and timelessness no longer seems so evident. /…/ Accordingly, I have written a lamento – not for the dead, but for the living, who have to deal with these issues for themselves. /…/ A lamento for us, struggling with the pain and hopelessness of this world.

Lamentate is music for piano solo and orchestra. With respect to its form, however, the composition cannot really be described as a typical piano concerto. I chose the piano to be the solo instrument because it fixes our attention on something that is “one”. This “one” could be a person, or perhaps a first-person narrative. Just as the sculpture, despite its overwhelming size, leaves the viewer with a light and floating impression, the piano, largest of the instruments, allowed me to create a sphere of intimacy and warmth that no longer seems anonymous or abstract. We could say that my composition is shaped by two polar forces: brutal robustness and intimate fragility. These characters are not statically opposed to each other, but go through a development throughout the composition."

There are two sacred texts hidden in the music here. The dramatic culmination of the first musical passage is unravelled by the Dies irae sequence from the Mass of the Dead: Day of wrath and doom impending … However, a troparion in the Orthodox Prayer Book, reflecting upon death, brings the dimension of eternal peace to the music. It translates into English as follows: “With eyes of compassion, O Lord, look upon my low estate. For my life is gradually passing away, and there is no salvation for me from the works I have done. Wherefore I pray: With eyes of compassion, O Lord, look upon my low estate, and save me.” The text is carefully inscribed into the music that follows the number of syllables, punctuation marks and other parameters of the text.

Alexei Lubimov (piano), SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Andrei Boreiko (conductor). CD Lamentate. ECM New Series 1930

© ECM Records

World premiere

07.02.2003
Tate Modern: Turbine Hall, London, England, United Kingdom

Concert: LamenTate

Hélène Grimaud, London Sinfonietta, Alexander Briger

Completion year

2002

Commissioned by

Tate & Egg Live

Scored for

piano and symphony orchestra

Duration

35–40 min

Publishers

Universal Edition

The Arvo Pärt Centre will be closed on Thursday, October 17.

Shop