Tintinnabuli and emigration from Estonia
His breakthrough came in 1976 with a piano piece called Für Alina. He wrote it with a set of compositional rules he called tintinnabuli. In it, he combines two lines of sound into one, a case where one plus one equals one. Tintinnabuli is also known for its lingering notes, like the vibrations that float in the air after striking a bell. Für Alina and his 1978 Spiegel im spiegel are still two of his most widely recognized pieces.
Much of Pärt's music is sacral, inspired by liturgical texts. This was taboo during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, where authorities tried to suppress open affirmations of the Christian faith. They also considered him too influenced by the West, where he was beginning to earn critical praise. Soviet authorities eventually forced Pärt and his family to emigrate from Estonia in 1980.
After spending time in Vienna, they moved to Berlin, where they lived for nearly three decades. There Pärt enjoyed creative freedom and continued to compose. Pärt's diverse creations include organ pieces, chamber music, orchestral music, symphonies, works written for choirs and soloists, and a cappella choir music.
Return to the homeland
In 2010, Arvo Pärt and his family returned to live full-time in Estonia. Once back in Estonia, they founded the Arvo Pärt Centre to preserve Pärt's personal and professional archives and create a meeting space for musicians and anyone interested in his worldview.
For much of the last decade, Pärt has held the top position as the most-performed contemporary composer, according to statistics compiled by the classical music website Bachtrack.