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Arvo Part: Symphony No. 4

4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
  • Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Tonu Kaljuste
  • Composer: Arvo Part
  • Audio CD (23 Aug. 2010)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM New Series
  • ASIN: B003NHY6HK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,602 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No 4 'Los Angeles' (2008), I Con sublimità
  2. II Affannoso
  3. III Deciso
  4. Fragments from Kanon Pokajanen (1997)

Product Description

Product Description

Arvo Pärt returns to symphonic structure and scope, in a new work scored for string orchestra, harp, tympani and percussion: the Symphony No. 4 'Los Angeles'. Almost 40 years after his Third Symphony, the Estonian composer wrote his Fourth for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen - and ECM releases their premiere performance, recorded live in January 2009, to celebrate Pärt's 75th birthday.

This is the first symphonic work Pärt has written since developing his "tintinnabulation" style. A composition in three movements, it opens with characteristically shimmering suspended chords, and an extraordinary journey begins. "The symphony is large", wrote Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, "and exceedingly beautiful".

The Fourth Symphony is both literally and figuratively a 'musical setting', based on an underlying text. Canon of the Guardian Angel forms the work's point of departure, determining its structure down to the smallest details. It was recorded live at LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall. The 37-minute work is augmented on disc by a new montage of "fragments" of Kanon Pokajanen, a piece which Pärt feels is closely related to the symphony. "To my mind, the two works belong together and form a stylistic unity."

Personnel: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor), Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Tonu Kaljuste (conductor)

BBC Review

A new symphony is always an exciting musical event, but Arvo Pärt's Fourth Symphony feels particularly noteworthy. First, it's almost 40 years since he composed his Third, in 1971. Second, the universal popularity of works such as Spiegel im Spiegel means Pärt is more in the collective consciousness than many contemporary composers.

The symphony's subtitle, Los Angeles, refers as much to its subject matter as to the fact that the LA Philharmonic are its co-commissioners, for it's a wordless setting of an angel-related text, Canon of the Guardian Angel. Scored for string orchestra, harp, timpani and percussion, its three movements are correspondingly ecclesiastical in mood: modal harmonies, repetitions, and the percussion massively evocative of the bells and clangs associated with the rituals of the Orthodox Church. Like much of Pärt's other works, it weaves the effect of musical suspension in time, helped by motivic and stylistic similarities across its three movements. Each movement, however, also has its own character. The first creeps into being with hushed, high shimmering strings. The second begins with a series of percussive musical tiptoes, like a tragedy-tinged musical version of the grandmother’s footsteps game. In the third, the bells which hitherto have evoked the tinkling chimes of a church service suddenly develop a tolling tone more akin to a death-knell.

A clue to the work’s tragic mood lies in its dedication to an imprisoned Russian entrepreneur. It isn't a political statement though, insists Pärt. Instead, it's “a bow to the great power of human spirit and human dignity”. Compare it to the Third Symphony, which does feel heavy with anti-Soviet feeling, and this rings true. Nevertheless, the Fourth is still an unrelentingly sombre listen. It’s beautiful too though, and some of the charged atmosphere of its concert premiere, when this recording was taken, has transferred to disc. The LA Philharmonic weave an atmosphere of controlled, tragically noble limbo, with wide-ranging and finely controlled dynamics, easy transitions from chamber to orchestral textures, and a hauntingly beautiful third-movement violin solo.

The Estonian Philharmonic Choir are just as effective in the Kanon Pokajanen fragments. These lift the mood, if not to full-blown happiness then certainly to a better spiritual place, delivered in a crisply enunciated, religiously-weighted performance.

--Charlotte Gardner

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I first heard this piece at the Proms this year, a beautiful piece of programming, coming as it did straight after Mossolov's wildly insane Iron Foundry. I was stunned then by the Symphony No.4's beauty and so snapped up the recording when I saw it this week. I wasn't disappointed. This is just the sort of music we need now. Meditative, quiet, but intense beauty - a real balm for the soul. Try it. Ignore other reviewers who carp on about it's symphonic credentials, just let the work bypass your brain and go straight to the heart. Just as the composer intended I think. You won't regret it and the experience of sublime peace this composer imparts will become a "part" of you very quickly. Stunning performance of the Fragments of Kanon Pokajanen too by his long time collaborator Tonu Kaljuste. Strongly recommended.
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Format: Audio CD
No doubt, a great composition and haunting, great music. But when listening with headphones the many noises in the background are too many and that makes you hope for a better recording. This said by an ECM-fan.
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Arvo Pärt's music is truly unique. Increasingly he has pared down his sound world beyond the minimalist (but then he has not gone in for the motoric rhythmic structure of, say Adams, Reich or Glass).

His music has been described as tintinnabulation, based, as the name suggests, on the ringing of bells (and the kind of musical changes evoked by bell-ringing. However, the sound-world he has created is subtle and often static.

The Symphony No.4 does not fit easily into the accepted idea of symphonic music, largely due to the calm, focussed nature of the piece, which bypasses symphonic argument in favour of a limited, if intense, musical progression through the slowest and subtlest of harmonic changes.

I heard this piece at its UK premiere at the Proms: Pärt managed the seemingly impossible feat of concentrating 6000 pairs of ears on his soft-voiced opus (does it rise above pianissimo? - It certainly didn't seem to) for over 35 minutes.

I suspect the symphony will gain greater credibility on disc, if only because such a solitary experience- Proms excepted- is hard to sustain in the concert hall. It seems to need headphones or a quiet room.

We are left with the question not of whether this is symphonic music, but whether it is effective music: clearly if you expect your music to be an all-guns-blazing orchestral showpiece, you would be disappointed. However, if you have time for the kind of still reflection this piece requires, you will find it absorbing and contemplative.

The choral pieces which provide the filler occupy a similar sound world and are beautifully sung by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.
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Format: Audio CD
I heard a little of this symphony broadcast live from this year's Proms whilst driving home late. I have many of ECM recording's of Part's works and what I heard made me want to buy this recording. It did not disappoint and I would rank this amongst his finest compositions. It is a very quiet piece but extremely satifying to listen to. The music draws you in with its fine nuances and seems to be over in no time at all, which is often the case with good music. The recording quality, whilst very good, is not up to the highest level that I associate with ECM New Series; a small niggle as this is probably better than most classical recordings on other labels. It has been recorded by a third party and released by ECM which may explain this. The additional track is a choral piece that is an extract taken from a previous ECM recording "Kanon Pokajanen". It works well with the Symphony but it makes the new content on this release seem poor value for money but I would recommend buying it for the Symphony No.4.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is music to die to.
It could almost convert you to a religion.
OK that might be OTT - perhaps I'm feeling my mortality - but catch this in the right mood, and really listen and it is transcendental. One could imagine the clouds parting, the blinding light, angelic host, and arrival at wherever your prejudices dictate you should be. Let it take you; forget musical categories (and religion!), this is music for the soul and spirit.
The programming of an excerpt of Kanon Pokajanen after the symphony I initially found irritating as I'd had the two disc Kanon set for a long while; however with further listening it is not so much an 'also available' plug as a logical conclusion: the symphony takes you, this is where you go - you could argue.
While the recording responds to decent equipment with the depth one expects from ECM there is some background noise (more irritatingly detectable with headphones) - it is a live US concert recording, but this not something you get with LSO live recordings for example. I recorded the BBC Prom UK premiere by the same conductor in 2010 and found the interpretation to have developed from the ECM world premiere recording in 2009 which I got soon after - but at least you don't get audience shuffling and coughing on the ECM version!
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