What have you come out into the desert to see? A reed shaking in the wind? Or a man dressed in fine clothes? Arvo Pärt's minimalist and spartan work, a meditation on the text of John 18:1 - 19:30, is certainly not for those seeking something dressed in finery.
The accompanying booklet is as minimalist as the work itself - a photograph of Pärt, a photograph of Pärt's hands, a photograph of Pärt with conductor Paul Hillier (for the man himself was present for the rehearsals and recording, so it has valid claim to represent the composer's intentions), the Latin text (which has a few typos unfortunately) and translation, and that's it. The disc only has one track, making it a bit difficult to find your place again were you to lose concentration, but having said that, the piece being all about the text, should really demand your entire attention devoted to it for the duration, as though it were Lectio Divina
I had prevaricated between buying this and the Tonus Peregrinus
recording, and the metaphorical toss of the coin fell in favour of this one. With hindsight, apart from the argument in favour of the aforementioned involvement of Pärt himself, I am given to believe that the pace of that other recording takes a full 15 minutes off the 70 minutes of this one. Having listened to this Hilliard Ensemble disc, I really cannot conceive of it being performed even a second faster, never mind that fast. The coin fell the right way I think.