An immersion into the music and world of Arvo Pärt

Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Professor Dr. Peter Bouteneff traveled to Estonia for a unique experience, spending ten days in residency at Arvo Pärt Centre in the village of Laulasmaa from November 21-30, 2019.

“This residency was a period of retreat for me, an immersion into the music and world of Pärt which is so endlessly meaningful to me,” said Bouteneff. “It gave me the opportunity to work in silence, with a view to the great Estonian forest that surrounds the building. And then I could poke my head out of my study room and get into a conversation with one of the Centre’s staff, a visitor, or even with the composer himself.”

Bouteneff serves on the Arvo Pärt Centre’s Board of Artistic Advisors and is the director of St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s Arvo Pärt Project, which he co-founded together with former faculty member Nicholas Reeves in 2011. Since then, Pärt’s spiritual roots in Orthodox Christianity have inspired the Seminary to produce high-profile concertsessays and books, and cross-disciplinary panel discussions.

The frescoes of the Arvo Pärt Centre’s chapel were painted by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Alumnus Dn. Nikita Andrejev (’15).The frescoes of the Arvo Pärt Centre’s chapel were painted by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Alumnus Dn. Nikita Andrejev (’15).In 2015, the Seminary signed a concordat with the Arvo Pärt Centre for continued cooperation between the Centre and St. Vladimir’s, above all in the fields of arts and theology, in mutual counseling, and in joint academic activities. Since the opening of the Centre in 2018, which Bouteneff and Seminary President Fr. Chad Hatfield attended, it has welcomed upwards of 33,000 visitors.

Professor Bouteneff said the timing of his recent stay at the Centre made it even more meaningful for him.

“It was a special joy to be there during the days that Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex was canonized a saint,” he said. “Arvo Pärt and I first met in 1990 at Fr. Sophrony’s monastery. Sophrony and St. Silouan the Athonite have been a profound influence on Pärt’s life and music, and the chapel at the heart of the Pärt Centre was immediately dedicated in the name of St. Sophrony.”

Bouteneff’s residency concluded with a public lecture in the Centre’s auditorium entitled, “Music as translation: The movement from text to reception in Arvo Pärt’s music.” The lecture explored the relationship between the sacred texts that Pärt sets to music, and the profound spiritual power that the music has over its vastly diverse audience.