If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper… is the most enigmatic composition from the formative years of Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli style. Prior to Christopher May’s 2017 dissertation defended in Oxford (System, Gesture, Rhetoric: Contexts for Rethinking Tintinnabuli in the Music of Arvo Pärt, 1960–1990), this work was practically absent from academic discussion. Furthermore, it is in an intriguing conflict with the common narrative depicting Pärt’s creative journey.
The place this composition has had in the reception of Pärt’s work has also been misleading in its modesty: for the composer himself, the score has been very important. He has revised its first published version (1984) many times, but it was not until 2019 that a significantly changed version was created.