A First Visit to Stonecrop Gardens . . . to Music by Arvo Pärt

Stonecrop Gardens is fewer than thirty minutes south of us, yet we only recently discovered it.

It’s a very different sort of garden from Innisfree, which we visit several times a year.

Stonecrop’s design is as described here:

The gardens cover an area of approximately 15 acres and comprise a diverse collection of gardens and plants including woodland and water gardens, a grass garden, raised alpine stone beds, cliff rock gardens, and an enclosed English-style flower garden. Additional features include a Conservatory, display Alpine House, Pit House with an extensive collection of choice dwarf bulbs, and systematic order beds representing over 50 plant families. (From the website]

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Listening List

Another recent discovery, courtesy friend David Nice, was Arvo Pärt’s Symphony No. 3.

By the time Credo was composed in 1968, Pärt had come to the conclusion that the musical means he had been using so far had exhausted themselves. The composer then delved into early music because it was in Gregorian chant, early polyphony and polyphonic music from the Renaissance that he had previously found his musical examples, ideal sound combinations and techniques. This became the starting point for his eight-year period of searching for a unique musical language.

This silence was broken by Symphony No. 3, one of the first works that was considerably different from his earlier compositions and heralded Pärt’s new creative principles. The three movements of the composition follow each other attacca (i.e. without any break). The composer’s interest in monody and early polyphony is clearly visible here. The harmonic and melodic material brings to mind choir music from the 14th and 15th centuries, even though Pärt does not use any quotations. The polyphonic development in all movements of the piece do not emphasize the atmosphere from behind centuries, but rather, translate the thematic material into contemporary musical language. In Symphony No. 3 Pärt aimed to apply the notion of the movement of independent voices, imagining the entire structure of the composition as a metaphor for building a city. [citation]

David refers in a blog post to the BBC Proms performance of Symphony No. 3. While the performance itself is only available to watch on BBCPlayer if you are in the UK, a delightful moment from the rehearsal may be found here.


Credits: Sources for the quotations are at the links in the text. The photographs, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.


10 thoughts on “A First Visit to Stonecrop Gardens . . . to Music by Arvo Pärt

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Steve: It’s a good bet, based on the link you shared. I did try to figure out what it was–it was there with a whole family of plants, and of course I don’t remember what family–but I couldn’t figure out the signage. Maybe next time.

      1. shoreacres

        It does seem to be our Euphorbia marginata. Of the Euphorbia species shown as native in New York state, a half-dozen or so clearly weren’t this one. But E. marginata was listed as native, and on the USDA map, it shows up in Rockland and Westchester counties in NY, and Fairfield county in Connecticut, just south of Stonecrop Gardens. I thought it was interesting that on the Go Botany site it’s listed as Mountain Snow Spurge. I suspect in your area snow-on-the-mountain gets to see some real snow once in a while.

  1. David N

    Lovely setting, though clearly not on as grand a scale as Innisfree. Like the look of the wildflower meadows. You could meditate on great Arvo’s last pre-tintinnabulist symphony there. And you have to come and experience the green-by-the-sea glories of Pärnu next year!

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: We particularly loved the wildflower meadows, with paths cut through, so one could walk among them. And you know how much we are indeed tempted by Pärnu! I have been listening as I can to the great links you sent of the festival. I’m going to put them right here, in fact, with your guide to listening, in the event anyone else would like a listen:

      Concerts on Estonian Classical Radio

      06.08 https://klassikaraadio.err.ee/849469/tana-kontserdisaalis-parnu-muusikafestival-jarvi-akadeemia-gala

      Unmissable: the Beethoven Quintet at the start (Elisabeth Leonskaja and star winds of the EFRO)

      07.08 Chamber https://klassikaraadio.err.ee/848913/tana-kontserdisaalis-parnu-muusikafestival

      All-Estonian programme, highlight for me the Oja Piano Quintet at the end (the piano part of which Leonskaja learnt in a couple of days.

      08.08 https://klassikaraadio.err.ee/849194/tana-kontserdisaalis-parnu-muusikafestival-eesti-festivaliorkester-paavo-jarvi

      First EFO concert, starting with Arvo Part Third Symphony and ending (officially) with a stunning Ravel La Valse, plus three encores

      09.08 https://klassikaraadio.err.ee/849475/tana-kontserdisaalis-parnu-muusikafestival-gala

      EFO players’ annual chamber concert. ALL fab – best balanced programme they’ve done, too – but especially so the Brahms Clarinet Quintet at the end.

      10.08 https://klassikaraadio.err.ee/849728/tana-kontserdisaalis-parnu-muusikafestival-jarvi-akadeemia-loppkontsert

      High-quality Academy Orchestra shared between the conductors of the course. Highlights: Arutunian Trumpet Concerto with EFO principal trumpeter as soloist, finale of Tchaikovsky Three and Neeme conducting a daft march which won a prize in an Estonian 100 competition.

      11.08 https://klassikaraadio.err.ee/849894/tana-kontserdisaalis-parnu-muusikafestival-eesti-festivaliorkester-paavo-jarvi-ja-midori

      Final EFO concert, starting explosively with the amazing Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra.

      1. David N

        Absolutely – spread the word and the love around! Having written that I don’t want to hear the Brahms Clarinet Quintet played by anyone else live for a good few years, the same now goes for Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, which I’ve just heard to heavenly perfection from Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Lucerne.

  2. shoreacres

    I’m absolutely charmed by Stonecrop. I agree that it doesn’t seem to have the grand scale of Innisfree, but I consider that a plus, not a minus. The Pärt is a perfect accompaniment to the photos. For that matter, it’s rather a nice accompaniment to an evening at home. I’m looking forward to the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, too. David always brings such wonderful things to the table.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: Just looked up to see that Innisfree is 10x the size of Stonecrop (150 to 15 acres). Size is definitely not everything. Stonecrop packs a lot of interesting environments into its smaller space, and Innisfree allows offers a good-sized ramble through its spacious garden “rooms.” Bottom line is it’s a treat to have both gardens within reasonable proximity. Second you also on the music David brings to the table. The chamber concert he links is just as he said, and introduced me, among other things, to a delightful piece for flute trio by a composer brand new to me: Casterède – Flûtes en Vacances.

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