Works

Credo

1968

Scored for

piano, mixed choir (SATB) and symphony orchestra

Duration

12 min

Short description

Credo (Latin for “I believe”) is one of the most important and dramatic collage pieces in Pärt’s career. It marks the summary of his early work and is also a key to understanding his stylistic turn and subsequent compositions. As in Pärt’s other compositions from the 1960s, the musical material of Credo combines elements of dodecaphony, sonorism, collage and aleatory technique. This, however, was the first time his music was based on a holy text that became the foundation for the musical structure of the entire piece.
 
The underlying text for Credo is in fact itself a collage. Pärt has combined a phrase from the Christian Statement of Faith, “I Believe in Jesus Christ”, with an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gos…
Credo (Latin for “I believe”) is one of the most important and dramatic collage pieces in Pärt’s career. It marks the summary of his early work and is also a key to understanding his stylistic turn and subsequent compositions. As in Pärt’s other compositions from the 1960s, the musical material of Credo combines elements of dodecaphony, sonorism, collage and aleatory technique. This, however, was the first time his music was based on a holy text that became the foundation for the musical structure of the entire piece.
 
The underlying text for Credo is in fact itself a collage. Pärt has combined a phrase from the Christian Statement of Faith, “I Believe in Jesus Christ”, with an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to Matthew, which defines the essence of Christianity: do not respond to evil with more evil. Like the text, the music too brings together two conflicting worlds. The Statement of Faith lines the work like a frame, sung by a choir with the harmony of the Prelude in C by J. S. Bach (WTC I). The part of the solo piano is also based on Bach’s prelude. This is a symbol of beauty and truth – a silent yet consistent antidote to the “tooth for a tooth” mentality. The aggressive world of the Old Testament is represented in the music by the dodecaphonic material that follows strict compositional rules, although in a rather unnatural way. More specifically, the series is based on a circle of fifths. At the same time, it is important to notice how that “axis of evil” is formed: with each bar the seemingly harmless fifths expand into ever larger and tighter clusters, culminating in total noise and musical chaos. In this symbolic fight between good and evil, each musical element has its bearing and significance. For instance, in the middle part of the composition, we can hear Bach’s prelude in a distorted way: in retrograde (backwards) and in the wrong tempo. However, this makes the restoration of the initial order and the return to C major at the end of the piece even more meaningful.
 
Credo was premiered on 16 November 1968 in Tallinn by the Estonian Radio Choir, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the pianist Mart Lille, conducted by Neeme Järvi. The event was a sensation: the shocked audience demanded a repeat performance, but shortly afterwards Credo was banned, with Pärt and several other individuals in the music world having to answer to the authorities whether it was a political provocation. However, according to the composer himself, it was a deeply personal act, and in a musical sense, it was his farewell to twelve-tone music.
 
"It was as though I had bought myself freedom, but at the cost of renouncing everything and being left completely naked. It was like turning the new page in my life. It was a decision, a conviction in something very significant." (Arvo Pärt 70. A radio series of 14 parts by Immo Mihkelson, Klassikaraadio, 2005, part 6)

World premiere

16.11.1968
Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn, Estonia

Symphony concert

Neeme Järvi (conductor), Mart Lille (piano), Estonian Television and Radio Mixed Choir , Estonian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra

Completion year

1968

Scored for

piano, mixed choir (SATB) and symphony orchestra

Duration

12 min

Publishers

Universal Edition

Language

Latin

Vocal text

Fragment of the Creed and Matthew 5: 38-39

Credo in Jesum Christum.

Audivistis dictum: oculum pro oculo, dentem pro dente.
Autem ego vobis dico: Non esse resistendum injuriae.

Credo.


I believe in Jesus Christ.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil.

I believe.

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