classical music

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The Independent Culture
When it comes to conversion experiences, the Estonian composer Arvo Prt should know a thing or two. He shuns press interviews, but the music speaks eloquently for him. It's more than two decades now since this sometime modernist found a very personal way out of a creative impasse. Quite simply, he turned to the timeless elements of his art: lucid lines, ancient modes, drones and pedals, the sweet clash of dissonance amid euphony.

As an emigr from the then Soviet Union he began to attract, in the West, the kind of cult following that has more recently latched on to Gorecki, Taverner and Bryars. Though he is more retiring than those other composers, the sound of something like his setting of the Passion according to St John, simultaneously medieval and contemporary, is now one of the most instantly recognisable of the era.

For the South Bank's series, "Arvo Prt: Emerging Light", opening on Saturday with the Hilliards and Roger Norrington at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, his works have been placed in the context of music from the Baltic states. There's a large element of lucky dip, and a touch of the sugared pill: at least two of Saturday's pieces are Prt in his preconversion guise, and one young composer is supposed to extract farting sounds from pigs' bladders. All told, though, these concerts promise one of the most comprehensive ventures into the unknown that London has heard for years. If you've seen through the bluff of the Barbican's wildly mistitled "British Music Day" weekend, the South Bank offers an alternative that really does take today as its starting-point.

Arvo Prt, Barbican Centre, EC2 (0171-638 8891)