Fratres, ("Brothers") by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (1935–), is a set of nine variations on a slow, sustained melody that suggests liturgical chants of Estonian Orthodox religion. The composition uses three parallel voices, one high, one middle and one low, each with a distinctive tonality and rhythmic texture. The variations are six to nine measures long, the pitches dictated by an unchanging mathematical algorithm that generates variety and a sense of calm progression within a unified framework. Each variation ends in a percussive two-measure "refuge," used like the bell in a group meditation, signaling that the participants will pause, reflect and move on. Pärt refers to his compositional technique as tintinnabuli, Latin for the little bells carried in a procession.
Fratres was first composed in 1977 as an instrumental piece for chamber orchestra with variable instrumentation. In 1980 Pärt scored it for piano and violin. It has become widely popular in concert music, in over a dozen films and documentaries, and in recordings for guided meditation. From 2011 to 2018, Pärt was the world's most performed living composer.
Dolci thanks Gloria Cheng, our friend and mentor, for her invaluable help in adapting Fratres for piano and oboe and in preparing our performance. Our changes from the published score for violin and piano retain the original pitches and rhythms as best we can. Our occasional octave transpositions and instrumentation changes reflect technical and metabolic necessity.