Many years ago, when I first became involved in the tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church, I came across a text that made a profound impression on me although I cannot have understood it at the time. It was the Canon of Repentance.
Since then I have often returned these verses, slowly and arduously seeking to unfold their meaning. Two choral compositions (Nun eile ich…., 1990 and Memento, 1994) were the first attempts to approach the canon. I then decided to set it to music in its entirety-from beginning to end. This allowed me to stay with it, to devote myself to it; and, at the very least, its hold on me did not abate until I had finished the score. I had a similar experience while working on Passio.
It took over two years to compose the Kanon pokajanen, and the time “we spent together” was extremely enriching. That may explain why this music means so much to me. — Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt is quite simply the preeminent late twentieth-early twenty first century composer of classical music of deep religious and spiritual profundity.
Here is Ode I of his Canon of Repentance, completed in 1995.