Along with Pari Intervallo
, this is the best known and most performed of Pärt’s small number of solo organ works. It was written in 1980 for the 900th anniversary of the cathedral in Speyer, South Germany. The five central dance-like variations relate to the movements of the Mass—the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus—and they are flanked by an imposing introduction and coda. Here, Pärt suggests that the organ’s motor is respectively switched off and on again in order to effect a diminuendo and crescendo—hence a crashing opening and a crashing conclusion. It is not a stipulation, however, and in this performance, on the organ of St Paul’s Cathedral, it was not electrically possible. Here, therefore, the effect has been achieved by gradual reduction and increase of registration. The extraordinary acoustic of the building seems to take care of the rest.
from notes by Meurig Bowen © 1998