Spiegel Im Spiegel (Pärt 1978) [9:19]

Arvo Pärt may have written more famous pieces, but never has he bettered himself. Originally scored for piano and violin, this exquisite moment of minimalism has been translated to other timbres, but always retains that sense of coming from somewhere else; somewhere that the rest of us simple listeners simply cannot touch, let alone dream of visiting.

One of the first written in his own tintinnabular style, it heralded an entirely new area for the composer, where a simple line moves in arpeggiations on the tonic triad, whilst another steps across it in a series of diatonic steps. It sounds simple, even simplistic, but at least one violinist called this one of the most difficult pieces to play, if only because it is so stark that the playing has to be perfect in every detail.

The title translates from German to mirror in the mirror, which may be a reference to the infinite relections in parallel plane mirrors. Others pick up reference to death and the afterlife, or to the crisis some of us feel when we realise we are more than halfway through our lives. Most agree that it speaks of a profound sense of peace. It may, but I prefer not to know; I prefer to guess. I just find it compelling from one end to the other.

I'm not going to say much more about the music because I really don't think there are words that do any of it justice. I did hear one person do quite well at it, though. After hearing this for the first time played by an accomplished violinist and pianist, one young woman said something breathtaking: 'I'm not afraid of dying now.'

The lead on this is played by the familiar Mellotron solo flute, doubled through a divider at some points, with digital harp playing underneath. Strings and choir linger only faintly beneath, joined late in the event by the breathy suggestion of the Wilden played at a gentle, resonant half speed. Less minimalist than most other efforts maybe, but I hope it remains understated enough.

Instrumentation: Mellotron Mk V Playing

also digital harp

FLAC version here.