If one small candle burns in complete darkness, then it is no longer darkness − in memoriam Alexander Knaifel


On June 27, the legendary composer, Arvo Pärt’s colleague and close friend Alexander Knaifel (28.11.1943 – 27.06.2024) passed away.

In the 1960s, Alexander Knaifel belonged to the generation of young avant-garde composers of the Soviet Union, together with Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, Sofia Gubaidulina, Valentyn Sylvestrov, Alfred Schnittke and others. Among the aforementioned composers, musicologist Svetlana Savenko sees the greatest similarity between Pärt and Knaifel. After the avant-garde period, religious themes became central in the work of both composers, and the musical expression also moved towards harmony and simplicity.

Knaifel has mentioned that he tries to convey something of the heart of faith in his work: “speaking in a low voice, hoping to hear the voice within me”. In an interview with Helena Tulve, which was published last December, Knaifel said: “Everyone should do everything they can, according to their own abilities, so that there is a little more light in the world. There is a wonderful saying, “If at least one small candle burns in the whole universe, in complete darkness, then it is no longer darkness.”

Knaifel’s rich and varied oeuvre includes 80 works performed all over the world. His work surprises with consistently extravagant ideas, unusual titles and unexpected line-ups. Each work is a world of its own.

One of Alexander Knaifel’s dreams in recent years was to visit Estonia and the Arvo Pärt Centre again and meet Arvo and Nora Pärt. He was extremely happy when it came true at his 80th birthday concert last November. At the concert held on November 18 at the Arvo Pärt Centre, the ensembles Hortus Musicus and Vox Clamantis performed works from Knaifel’s various creative periods. The composer personally conducted the last piece of the concert, “Skinia”. The Centre’s team was also very grateful for Knaifel’s recollections that were recorded for the Centre’s archive. We will always miss you. Memory eternal!

Our deepest condolences to daughter Anna and all the relatives.

Arvo and Nora Pärt and their family and the Centre’s team

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