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About this Piece

Composed: 2008
Length: c. 32 minutes
Orchestration: timpani, percussion (bass drum, chimes, crotales, marimba, sizzle cymbal, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, and triangle), harp, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: January 10, 2009, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting (world premiere)

In February of 2007, Pärt was working with an ancient canon in Church Slavonic containing a prayer to a guardian angel. When he received the proposal to write a new orchestral piece for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the connection between this guardian angel and the City of Angels proved irresistible. Pärt completed his Fourth Symphony the following year, and it was premiered and recorded by the LA Phil, under Esa-Pekka Salonen, in early 2009.

“The Canon to the Guardian Angel is in fact an inner conversation with our own guardian angel,” Pärt writes. “It is very personal, written in the first person. This is also how I view the connection of this canon with my music, with this symphony.” Though the Symphony is purely instrumental, the text of the canon influenced both large and small aspects of form (division into three movements, number of syllables and accents in lines) and the expressive character of the music. Its important is such that Pärt wishes a translation of the text to be printed, as follows.


O Angel of God, my holy Guardian, keep my life in the fear of Christ God, strengthen my mind in the true
and wound my soul with heavenly love, so that guided by Thee, I may obtain the great
            mercy of Christ God.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

O holy Lady, Mother of our God, thou didst amazingly bear the Creator of all: with my Guardian
            Angel always 
pray His kindness to save my soul inhibited and bound by passions, and grant me
            remission of sins.


Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

Holy Angel of Christ, I fall down and pray to thee, my holy Guardian, given me from holy Baptism for the
             protection of my sinful body and soul.

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

By my laziness and bad habits, I have angered thy most pure light, and have driven thee away from me
            by all my shameful deeds, lies, slanders, envy, condemnation, scorn, disobedience,
            rotherly-hatred, grudges,

Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.

            love of money, adultery, anger, meanness, greed, excess, talkativeness, negative and evil thoughts,
            Holy Angel, my Guardian, pray for me.
            proud ways, dissolute madness, having self-will in all the desires of the flesh.
O my evil will, which even the dumb animals do not follow! How canst thou look at me or approach me who am like a stinking dog? With what eyes, O Angel of Christ, wilt thou look at me so badly snared in evil deeds? How can I ask forgiveness for my bitter, evil and wicked deeds, into which I fall every day and night, and every hour?


But I fall down and pray, O my holy Guardian: pity me, thy sinful and unworthy servant. Be my helper and protector against my wicked enemy, by thy holy prayers, and make me a partaker of the Kingdom of God with all the Saints, always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

From the Canon to the Holy Guardian Angel

- (from the Orthodox prayer tradition)