Arvo Part's Fratres

February 11, 2008 at 05:23 AM · I'm working on Arvo Part's Fratres for college auditions. Does anyone know anything about the piece and its name?


February 11, 2008 at 01:27 PM · What kind of information are you looking for? There's a short bit about it on Wikipedia that I found, but from what it said I'm not sure how useful it would be.

I played the violin/piano version on a recital when I was in college. One of my favorite violin pieces ever, and deceptively hard. Back then we still had to find any and all of our information through the library's card catalog and hope they had a book about it, so I convinced my teacher to let me learn it solely on the strength of it's musical quality.

February 11, 2008 at 08:08 PM · I question whether it's a really suitable piece for an audition of any kind. Having performed it on a recital last year, I'd say there are a few challenges, but it doesn't really show enough of anything in particular.

February 11, 2008 at 09:55 PM · it sounds like cheesy terrible music you'd see on some Lifetime made for TV movie of the week.

I wouldn't really bring something to an audition which you could sight read.

February 11, 2008 at 10:48 PM · Greg I am looking for anything anyone knows about the piece. The most I could find about Fratres was in the notes in the CD booklet. There wasn't a lot in there, and I am still trying to find out what the name, Fratres, means.

February 11, 2008 at 10:56 PM · Greetings,

Latin for brother/brethren. Part of Catholic Mass Ordres Fratres or somethign like that. Can`t spell it.

Think of Fraternal, Fraternity, and Frappe prunes.



February 12, 2008 at 12:45 AM · Some of this info is from copyrighted sources.

Versions of Fratres (may not be quite up to date)



(1977) Original version for chamber ensemble of early or modern instruments.(UE - rental only)

(1980) Violin and piano. (UE 17.274)

(1983) 8 or 12 cellos. (score UE 17.710/set of 4 parts UE 17.711)

(1983) 4 cellos. (UE 17.711)

(1983, rev. X/1991) String orchestra and percussion. (study score UE 17.802)

(1985) String quartet. (full score UE 19.000/parts UE 19.000a-c)

(1989) Cello and piano (arr. Dietmar Schwalke). (UE 19.563)

(1990) Wind octet and percussion (arr. Beat Briner) (full score UE 19.814/parts UE 19.815)

(1992) Violin, string orchestra and percussion. (study score UE 31.998/performance material - rental only)

(1994) Trombone, string orchestra and percussion. (study score UE 32.397/performance material - rental only)

(1995) Cello, string orchestra and percussion. (study score UE 31.997/performance material - rental only)

(2002) Guitar, string orchestra and percussion. (study score UE 32.365/performance material - rental only)

(2003) Viola and piano. (UE 32.624 - in preparation)

Fratres - Notes


The original version of Fratres for strings, wind and percussion, was composed in 1977 for the Estonian early music ensemble Hortus Musicus Tallinn. Pärt has since adapted the work for many different solo and ensemble combinations. The adaptations fall into two groups, one staying close to the original concept, the other with the addition of a soaring solo instrument line.

Version for string quartet, from a programme note for the Balanescu Quartet performance at the 1992

Vale of Glamorgan Festival

....With the permission of the composer, some of Pärt's students worked out a version for string quartet. It is based on the version for 12 cellos. Here is what New York Times critic John Pareles had to say of a performance of this version by the Kronos Quartet. "The most striking piece - and the gentlest - was Arvo Pärt's Fratres.....Above a drone, there is a ghostly chorale in harmonics; the melodies, punctuated by open fifths plucked on cello, grow longer and lower and, at one point, add vibrato. Then they rise again and fade into some mystical ether. It is one of the few modern works to recapture the eerie reverence of early vocal polyphony."

other notes in preparation

string orch/perc - Dedicated to the memory of Eduard Tubin. Fratres is built over an open fifth, A-E pedal in the back desks of cellos and basses and the structure consists simply of nine rotations of a single idea. The idea is a kind of inside-out version of Copland's Fanfare for The Common Man. The percussion is no ceremonial heralding but a hushed marking of time on claves and bass drum; and instead of a brassy fanfare the strings play a short melodic cell, amplified on its two repetitions by a single extra note in each direction, the three phrases then being repeated in inversion. Each of the nine rotations of this material begins a major or minor third lower than the previous one. The entire fascination of the piece derives from the shifting harmonic colour created by the flat second and split major/minor third within the tonic key.

Drums and claves reiterate a two-bar pattern in 6/4 time. Between each reiteration, violins in 3 widely spaced parts sway in triadic false relations, floating in additive rhythms of 7/4, 9/4 and 11/4. There is no development except in so far as the percussion pattern inreases in dynamics each time it recurs, thereby encouraging violas and cellos to reinforce the violins. The enhanced weight makes the strings' false relations sound more passionate. This increase in dynamics, and in the tension implicit in the false relations, creates a kind of climax, though the thematic substance changes only slowly and slightly. Moreover, the dynamics are reversed at the central point, eventually fading to leave only the distant drum and endless drone.

quartet - An eerie timelessness pervaded by the simplest of means: an omnipresent drone on the interval of a fifth (a symbol of eternity), a plaintive melody, and a distant rhythmic sentinel sounded on the cello. This version is particularly austere. Throughout, the second violin holds down a continuous chord of B-D, and against this drone the other parts move stepwise and in parallel motion. Whilst the V2 and Cello parts are tuned conventionally, the 1st v and viola parts are marked "scordatura", their lower strings being tuned respectively a major third and a major second lower than their normal pitch. This provides a richer textural sonority in the middle and lower ranges of the instruments.

(Philip Taylor from Collins Classics 14752)

Against the 2nd v's drone, the three-bar theme (in additive metre: 7/4,9/4 and 11/4) re-appears immediately in inversion. With this, all the material has been presented. It is repaeted in different parts from B by way of G, E flat, C, A flat, F and D back to B.

The arrangement for string orchestra by Hans Abrahamson, which was played by the Modern Art Museum Ensemble in an EBU concert from Copenhagen in October 1995, is closer to the string quartet version than Pärt's string orchestra version.

The version for violin and piano was arranged for Gidon and Elena Kremer, the dedicatees, for performance at the 1980 Salzburg Festival. Radically different from the other versions, this is set in the form of eight variations preceded by a solo violin prelude. The theme for the variations, which follows the same sequence of 7/4, 9/14 and 11/4 measures is here repeated eight times. The harmonic backbone of the original, which is preserved in the piano line is the result of a very simple procedure; two parts move in parallel thirds in the harmonic D minor, while the third part proceeds on the tones of the A minor chord. The resultant chords make up a harmonic series on the basis of which evolves the ornamental melodics of the violin, as well as the impressive chordal introduction. The authorised cello version by Dietmar Schwalke is closely based on Pärt's violin version. At a later date, Pärt arranged a version of Fratres which married the violin solo with the version for string orchestra.

February 12, 2008 at 09:00 PM · Fratres is a very cool piece. The whole note Arvo Part piece is Spiegel im Spiegel and it is very lovely as well. These are sort of minimalist pieces and will not appeal to everyone but they do have a profoundness to them that I find very wonderful.

Spiegel is relaxing to play for developing whole bow control.

Check out the recording of Fratres called Fratres with Gil Shaham. I also love Tabula Rasa. Wild

February 12, 2008 at 11:55 PM · Thanks Alan that was very useful. Michael I will try to find the Gil Shaham recording, but you should try the Gidon Kremer recording. I really like it.

February 13, 2008 at 02:41 AM · Niv, you are quite welcome. Best wishes for your auditions. I definitely agree on the original Kremer recording on ECM which is outstanding. Also the Tabula Rasa on the same recording which has never been topped.

February 13, 2008 at 11:35 PM · Just one further thing that you might find of interest.

This is based on the original version of Fratres and not the violin/piano variations version. But there is still some interesting background here.

February 14, 2008 at 03:07 PM · I didn't register the "audition" part of the original post. It does seem like an odd piece for an audition. Still brilliant, though.

A couple of you have experienced some listening failure.

February 14, 2008 at 03:34 PM · For auditions I think either the first or second of John Harbison's Songs of Solitude (solo violin) is a good choice. They are short and not too difficult. The 3rd and 4th songs are more challenging.

May 18, 2008 at 02:34 AM · I'm just curious . . . how difficult would you say Fratres is?

May 18, 2008 at 10:01 AM · Ruth, the most difficult part for me was after playing the opening two pages of four-string bariolage arpeggios (ppp-fff) was keeping my bow arm steady for the long ppp notes that start after figure 2. Bleh.

I really like this piece. I agree with the others that like the Kremer recording.

May 18, 2008 at 01:27 PM · I understand why someone wouldn't think this piece would make a good audition piece but I also don't understand why not. It has as much musical merit as any other piece you may choose. Just because it sounds easy isn't really an explanation. What's easy to one person isn't easy to another. I'm sure that the Glazunov seems easy to Perlman, I see it differently.

May 18, 2008 at 04:55 PM · I asked about the difficulty because I'm debating whether or not to try Fratres in a competition next April . . . I'm sure I'll need to talk it over with my teacher.

October 18, 2008 at 03:06 PM · I was searching too for the meaning of the title.

Yes, the music reminds me of a procession of monks in a monastry, chanting to God. This is true mainly for the original vesion.

Tonight, I am playing it for a recital too, and I wanted to say some words about it to the audience. So this form line gave me good inspiration.

How difficult is it to play?

It depends on ones ability. The introduction has sonority problems in carching the arpegios in the high register. Otherwise, I regard it as moderate technically difficult. BUT.....

As with any piece of music, the difficult challenge is to make it alive, interesting, and unforgetable, especially with a "minimalistic" composition like Fratres.

Even that the variations are different in character, still, each variation presents frasing challenges. The most difficult is the one next to the last. It requires supreme conectivity between the players to make it function properly.

Good luck, Niv (for the future)

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