Nunc dimittis (Pärt)

Arvo Pärt's Nunc dimittis is a setting of the Latin canticle Nunc dimittis for mixed choir a cappella, written in 2001. It was published by Universal Edition.

Nunc dimittis
Choral music by Arvo Pärt
Edinburgh. Saint Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, looking East (3610729473).jpg
Nave of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, for which the piece was composed
KeyC-sharp minor
TextNunc dimittis
Composed2001 (2001)
Performed2001 (2001): Edinburgh
ScoringSATB choir


The Latin canticle Nunc dimittis is based on the biblical narration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple according to the Gospel of Luke. It is one of only three canticles in the New Testament, along with the Magnificat and the Benedictus. It is part of the daily evening service compline[1] and has often been set to music. In the English choral tradition, it is typically combined with a setting of the Magnificat for Vespers, colloquially called "Mag and Nunc".[2]

Pärt had written a Magnificat in 1989 in Berlin, where the Estonian composer lived.[2] Nunc dimittis was commissioned by the choir of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, conducted by Matthew Owens. They first performed it in an Evensong of the 2001 Edinburgh Festival.[2] It was published by Universal Edition.[3][4]

Text and musicEdit

Pärt set the piece using the biblical text in the Vulgate version (Luke 2:29–32). He set it in C-sharp minor for a mixed choir a cappella.[5] The climax, on the words "lumen ad revelationem" (a light to reveal), is prepared by a "measured procession of gradually expanding phrases" and happens shifting from C-sharp minor to C-sharp major.[2][4] A reviewer noted that "gorgeous textures, harmonies and sonorities conjure a feeling of purity and emptiness."[6]


The first recording of Nunc dimittis is part of Pärt: Triodion & other choral works, performed by Polyphony, conducted by Stephen Layton, and published by Hyperion.[2] It was recorded in 2003 in the presence of the composer at London's Temple Church.

Nunc dimittis is part of a collection of music by Pärt titled Da Pacem, performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Paul Hillier, with organist Christopher Bowers-Broadbent.[7]


  1. ^ "An Order for Night Prayer (Compline)". Church of England. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bowen, Meurig. "Nunc dimittis". Hyperion. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Arvo Pärt: Nunc dimittis for mixed choir (SATB) a cappella". Universal Edition. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b Arvo Pärt / Nunc dimittis. Universal Edition. 2001.
  5. ^ Schweitzer, Vivien (8 November 2010). "Tallis Scholars Sing Arvo Pärt at Tully Hall – Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  6. ^ Shorter, Matthew (2003). "Arvo Pärt Triodion Review". BBC. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Arvo Pärt: Da Pacem – Hillier". Retrieved 6 April 2015.