Coda: solo piano "confirming" the message of Credo by playing the note C in every octave of the instrument (8 times).
... culminating in orchestral tutti (all instruments together) and choir singing "Credo" (I believe") once more.
The piano playing Bach's Prelude in C restores the initial order and harmony ...
The turning point in choir part: with Christ's words "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil" the 12-tone row starts to dry up note by note until there is only one note - C - left.
Low C note starts to build up the order again. At first it is quiet and lasts only for a few seconds...
In choir part we hear different sonoristic elements like shouting in clusters, producing half-spoken, half-whispered tone or singing in a high or low register without fixed pitches. It is a musical symbol for violence and chaos.
In the piano part we hear Bach’s prelude in a distorted way: in retrograde (backwards) and in the wrong tempo.
Note how that “axis of evil” is formed: with each bar the seemingly harmless fifths expand into ever larger and tighter clusters, culminating in total noise and musical chaos.
The aggressive message is musically represented by the 12-tone row based on fifths. It starts from a single C and grows until all 12 notes are heard.
A tremolo by timpani introduces a new sound world when the choir manifests the violent message "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth".
Solo piano playing Bach’s prelude note by note. For Arvo Pärt, Bach's music represents beauty and truth.
Introduction: choir singing "Credo" ("I believe") on the harmony of the Prelude in C by J. S. Bach (WTC I).
Credo (Latin for “I believe”) is one of the most important and dramatic collage pieces in Pärt’s career. It marks the summary of his early work and is also a key to understanding his stylistic turn and subsequent compositions. As in Pärt’s other compositions from the 1960s, the musical material of Credo combines elements of dodecaphony, sonorism, collage and aleatory technique. This, however, was the first time his music was based on a holy text that became the foundation for the musical structure of the entire piece.
The underlying text for Credo is in fact itself a collage. Pärt has combined a phrase from the Christian Statement of Faith, “I Believe in Jesus Christ”, with an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to Matthew, which defines the essence of Christianity: do not respond to evil with more evil. Like the text, the music too brings together two conflicting worlds. The Statement of Faith lines the work like a frame, sung by a choir with the harmony of the Prelude in C by J. S. Bach (WTC I). The part of the solo piano is also based on Bach’s prelude. This is a symbol of beauty and truth – a silent yet consistent antidote to the “tooth for a tooth” mentality. The aggressive world of the Old Testament is represented in the music by the dodecaphonic material that follows strict compositional rules, although in a rather unnatural way. More specifically, the series is based on a circle of fifths. At the same time, it is important to notice how that “axis of evil” is formed: with each bar the seemingly harmless fifths expand into ever larger and tighter clusters, culminating in total noise and musical chaos. In this symbolic fight between good and evil, each musical element has its bearing and significance. For instance, in the middle part of the composition, we can hear Bach’s prelude in a distorted way: in retrograde (backwards) and in the wrong tempo. However, this makes the restoration of the initial order and the return to C major at the end of the piece even more meaningful.
Credo was premiered on 16 November 1968 in Tallinn by the Estonian Radio Choir, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the pianist Mart Lille, conducted by Neeme Järvi. The event was a sensation: the shocked audience demanded a repeat performance, but shortly afterwards Credo was banned, with Pärt and several other individuals in the music world having to answer to the authorities whether it was a political provocation. However, according to the composer himself, it was a deeply personal act, and in a musical sense, it was his farewell to twelve-tone music.
It was as though I had bought myself freedom, but at the cost of renouncing everything and being left completely naked. It was like turning the new page in my life. It was a decision, a conviction in something very significant.
[Arvo Pärt 70. A radio series of 14 parts by Immo Mihkelson, Klassikaraadio, 2005, part 6.]