Since his conversion to the Orthodox faith in the early 1970s, Arvo Pärt has composed a large number of works of religious inspiration. He is attached to the Latin language, and has borrowed numerous texts from the Roman Catholic liturgy (masses, Stabat Mater, Salve Regina and others), but he naturally feels particularly close to Orthodox spirituality, which has been the source of both instrumental compositions (Silouan’s Song, Trisagion) and vocal works. In his settings of Orthodox prayers, Pärt sometimes makes use of English translations (Litany, Triodion), but on certain occasions he prefers to retain Church Slavonic, the of cial language of the Russian Orthodox liturgy. This is the case with the Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance), at once his most monumental work and one of the very rare musical settings of a canon (kānon), a poetico-liturgical genre dating from the Byzantine era.
The Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance), premiered in March 1998, is Arvo Pärt’s most monumental composition. Its prolonged genesis, a meticulous process of assimilation of the text in Church Slavonic, the austerity and subtlety of its style embody the same sincerity, the same spiritual and contemplative radiance as icon painting. A dialogue with the Sacred in which time stands still.