Marshalling orchestral and choral forces under the direction of Tonu Kaljuste, this new Arvo Part album, produced by Manfred Eicher and realized, like all Part’s ECM discs, with the composer’s participation, is a major event. Sacred music predominates, by turns monumentally powerful and tenderly fragile.
To celebrate Arvo Part's 80th birthday, Gimell presents a new recording of some of the Estonian composer's finest a cappella choral works. This is the first album of contemporary music from The Tallis Scholars since their famous 1984 recording of works by John Tavener. The program here includes several major works including the Magnificat, Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen, Triodion and I Am the True Vine. The album's title refers to the compositional style Part developed in the 1970s and now employs in most of his works. This simple style was influenced by the composer's mystical experiences with sacred chant. Tintinnabuli works often have a slow and meditative tempo and a minimalist approach to both notation and performance.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
On this latest BR-KLASSIK recording of sacred music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935), the regularly award-winning Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, conducted by Peter Dijkstra, is joined by the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, a frequent occurrence in their concert series that regularly include sacred music from the 19th through the 21st c. The present three compositions were written in 1984 and 1990 in the composer's own tintinnabulation style of composition (from the Latin word for the 'ringing of bells'). In his Te Deum, Pärt makes a conscious departure from the traditionally powerful and festive sound of such precursors as Charpentier, Bruckner and Verdi. The restraint of the Wallfahrtslied (Pilgrims' Song), a setting of Psalm 121, evokes the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition of psalm recitation. The Berliner Messe (Berlin Mass) is so named because it was first performed in the city's St. Hedwig's Cathedral (1990) to mark the German Katholikentag (Catholics Day).
Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat's collection of Arvo Pärt's piano music spans nearly 50 years of his career, from student pieces written in 1958 to a work from 2006. This would not be the right album for listeners looking primarily for Pärt's legendary austere simplicity, but it would be ideal for anyone already familiar with the composer looking for exposure to the broad stylistic and expressive range of which he is capable.
The selections on this album of music by Estonian "holy minimalist" Arvo Pärt come from different phases of his career. One, the Solfeggio, dates from 1963, before Pärt abandoned serialism for his minimalist experiments; it was revised and simplified a good deal in 2008, however. The centerpiece (and finale), the Stabat Mater, was composed in 1985, and several of the shorter pieces date from the 2000s. The repertoire is divided between sacred choral pieces and short secular pieces of various kinds, all culminating in the giant, hypnotic, and virtually symmetrical Stabat Mater.
The symphonies of Arvo Pärt will surprise anyone familiar with his contemplative, mature style. Pärt began life as a member of the Eastern European modern school, not so far removed from contemporaries such as Penderecki and Górecki. His three symphonies show his gradual renunciation of the more radical aspects of his musical syntax, a return to emotional directness, and the beginnings of that otherworldly quality that has become the outstanding feature of his later work. Not all listeners have traveled the path with him, some finding his recent music tedious and pretentious rather than spiritual, and these three relatively early symphonies really do add a welcome depth and roundness of profile to a composer who can all too easily seem one-dimensional. It's important to keep in mind that, unlike so many members of today's pseudospiritual school of composers (England's John Tavener being the prime example), Pärt is a real composer operating even in the most mystical musings. Järvi deserves real credit for calling attention to this fact in such a powerful way.