This time Naxos didn't make too happy. This cd is actually the perfect introduction to Part's music, featuring three of the four steps in the evolution of this composer. In the beginning Part was a stark, albeit very individual, serialist ( mercifully, this aspect is not documented here), then he began to introduce neo-classical elements in his music, with Bach' s severe spirituality as a beacon. This second phase ("collage" style) is documented by the masterful "Bach" collage, a piece that, despite the name, does not sound derivative or patchy at all. It's a little suite that somewhat sounds like Baroque, but at the same time sounds unmistakably modern, especially in the 2nd movement, which starts most gently and then starts to... how could I say? .. growl and snarl like a genetic mutation? (listen and you'll understand what I mean, I promise!) In the following phase Part entirely reverted to Neo-Classical manners, but in a sacred/ancient mood
more than baroque. Although clearly transitional, the 3rd sym. is very good, with a distinct Stravinskian flavour. Finally Part concentrated his styles in the current "tintinnabuli" style, here represented by the magisterial "Tabula Rasa". It's a piece in 2 movements, for string orchestra and "prepared" piano (which sounds like bells, hence the "tintinnabuli" word), where all the Part's better known trademarks are present: alternation of music and (expressive) silences, utterly refined string string textures, a rarefied spirituality and, above all, a sense of timelessness. I know some find it too "minimal" (i.e. boring), I think it's just music that requires a degree of emotional consonance. All the 3 pieces actually receive strong performances here: the Ulster Orchestra does not sound at all like a "regional" ensemble ( beatifully rich and disciplined strings) and their conductor is clearly attuned to the music's idiom. The problem is the recording: while warm and well-detailed, the sound is also excruciatingly hissy, in a way that actually reminded me of analog recordings, even if it's DDD. Weird, and too bad, since this is exactly the kind of music that needs digital silence and, unfortunately, the piece with the loudest hiss is just Tabula Rasa! Altogether a very good&cheap introductory issue if you want to know what Part is about, but if first-class sound is one of your priorities you should switch (like I did ) to the 20/21 Neeme Jarvi (a longtime Part advocate) disc. It has the same items, but it's played even better (one of the soloists is Gil Shaham!) and infinitely better recorded.