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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the abyss
If you're a fan of Part's work and haven't heard this album, buy it. You simply can't claim to have experienced what his music has to offer without having heard what is a truly unique listening experience. Immediate comparisons are the other ECM choral albums - Arbos, Passio and Te Deum. But this release takes Part's bleak, desolate vision to its ultimate extreme...
Published on 24 Aug 2004

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Arvo Part on vinyl Please!
It's a shame that there is not more Arvo Part on vinyl! This is not Part's finest, although it is worth a listern. The blend of Part's music with the voices of The Hilliard Ensemble was a pleasure to listern to. For people who have not yet experiened Arvo Part's work, let's just say his music transports you to a more peaceful place; a relaxed state of mind. It is also...
Published on 25 Feb 2010 by Mr. J. Street


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the abyss, 24 Aug 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Pärt: Miserere/Festina lente/Sarah was Ninety Years Old (Audio CD)
If you're a fan of Part's work and haven't heard this album, buy it. You simply can't claim to have experienced what his music has to offer without having heard what is a truly unique listening experience. Immediate comparisons are the other ECM choral albums - Arbos, Passio and Te Deum. But this release takes Part's bleak, desolate vision to its ultimate extreme.
The title track is without doubt the main feature of the album. The Hilliard Ensemble have never been better placed and the piece simply wouldn't be the same without them. Their usual medieval monk sound seems to take on a whole new character that at times hardly seems human. The atmosphere is icy, almost other-wordly. But the larger mixed choir and warm instrumental textures give the work a lighter edge. The performance of Festina Lente, a short and beautiful instrumental, was, like the other 2 pieces, conducted in the composer's presence and no better example of it can be found. Sarah Was Ninety Years Old is Part at his most minimalist, and arguably most terrifying. Over twenty minutes of an echoing, beating drum intersected with swaying desolate voices may challenge your view of his work as never before. But stick with it, take it as a whole and be open-minded and you'll see how perfectly it finishes what is an excellent album.
This is contemporary classical choral music unlike any other. It's dark stuff, but if you know how to appreciate it, you'll see how it carries with it a positive side that makes suffering and pain seem transient and the spirit eternal. Part's been compared to John Tavener and Henryk Gorecki, and all three have been labelled holy minamalists. But his two contemporaries tread much safer ground and don't carry with them the same uniqueness that this album epitomises. Arvo Part is truly a one-off, the likes of which the music world may never see again.
A word of warning to those unfamiliar with Arvo Part's music. This is not the most accessible collection of his works and there are many other releases that would serve as better introductions to this unique composer. Those on German label ECM New Series tend to be the best, from which I'd recommend either Arbos or Te Deum. The more recent Orient Occident album represents some of his more recent and lighter work.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Masterpieces on One CD, 19 Nov 2005
By 
Paracelsus1966 (Somerset, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pärt: Miserere/Festina lente/Sarah was Ninety Years Old (Audio CD)
This was the first Arvo Part CD I ever bought, and it's still one of the best. Miserere can fairly claim to be one of Part's greatest works: its soundscape is little short of awesome, and occasionally almost terrifying. It is of course also extremely beautiful and serene (especially towards the end).
Festina Lente is one of his best short orchestral pieces, and compares favourably to the most well-known piece of this type, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.
Sarah Was Ninety Years Old is a radical reworking of the 1976 piece Modus. I've heard the original (never officially released) and I can happily report that this 1990 reworking is vastly superior. Like Miserere, this is both peaceful and - when the organ comes in at the end - awesome.
All in all, one of the best Arvo CDs out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intensely sublime; Lyrical and romantic; Experimental minimalism, 1 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Pärt: Miserere/Festina lente/Sarah was Ninety Years Old (Audio CD)
I bought this for the title track, Miserere, which to me represents Part at his most spiritually intense and profound. Mingling spare, tightly-on-the-edge-of-dissonance plangent vocal lines with bells and other instrumental interpolations, this is music of awe-ful splendour, glacial and pure. Its like standing alone in a snow filled, spectral landscape, dwarfed by glaciers and glittering, icy seas bathed in a shimmering blue light. Perfectly captures a sense of individual frailty in the presence of a vast mystery, which is both austere and sweet. This is not an easy or comforting piece, if you surrender to it you will encounter despair and isolation but it also journeys towards profound connection. Words are inadequate, really. The music itself is what it is.

In many ways, though it would have been a very short CD, about 35 minutes, I think the intensity of Miserere should have been left as a stand alone piece. The only possible continuation for such a piece of music which moves towards silence, is more silence!

Festina lente is a sweet and accessible pause after the intensity of the previous track and shows how minimalism can be used in a less profound, but still soulful way, similar to some of Philip Glass' very lyrical pieces.

Sarah Was Ninety Years Old is, frankly, odd! It remained completely a cerebral and analytical experience for me, and, in that guise, most un-Part like. Yes many of the Part trademarks are there, spare, repetitive, squeezed together dissonant vocal harmonies but they didn't reach anywhere. Pretty well all of Part's other work takes me to a profoundly transcendent place - his music is 'spiritual', describes a metaphysical journey, wordlessly. This listener surrenders to it, does not sit outside of it

'Sarah' consists of long alternating sections of rhythmic and arhythmic percussion sections, followed by repetitions of short choral lines, over and over. Extremely beautiful harmonious vocal lines, but they don't take the listener inside the lines, in the way much of Part does. It was more like an exercise or experiment in music, coming from an analytic rather than an experiential place. It reminded me of what I imagine a Victorian spiritualist session may have been like - strange knocks and table tappings, followed by disembodied voices from 'beyond the veil!' To be honest, 'Sarah' is unlikely to be listened to again, by me.

Miserere as a track is beyond stars - to say 'I love it' is inadequate, but it will have to do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most beautiful piece of music I own, 25 Sep 2011
By 
IDK (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pärt: Miserere/Festina lente/Sarah was Ninety Years Old (Audio CD)
This is the most beautiful piece of choral music that I own. It slowly builds into an incredible crescendo. Part's style is of using clear pure sounds, discordant then resolving beautifully (this is an amateur's attempt at describing it). I love the music of Arvo Part, and this was the CD that started it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual revelations., 26 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Pärt: Miserere/Festina lente/Sarah was Ninety Years Old (Audio CD)
The first 5 minutes of Miserere are absolutely exquisite and was the main reason for my purchase. I listen to these repeatedly.
For me,the best advert for Arvo Part there is.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Miserere [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Great Arvo Part work!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Arvo Part on vinyl Please!, 25 Feb 2010
By 
Mr. J. Street - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Miserere [VINYL] (Vinyl)
It's a shame that there is not more Arvo Part on vinyl! This is not Part's finest, although it is worth a listern. The blend of Part's music with the voices of The Hilliard Ensemble was a pleasure to listern to. For people who have not yet experiened Arvo Part's work, let's just say his music transports you to a more peaceful place; a relaxed state of mind. It is also music that will challenge you. Just close your eyes and allow yourself to drift off to...
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spacious recording of sparse music for reflective solitude, 7 Feb 2003
By 
This review is from: Pärt: Miserere/Festina lente/Sarah was Ninety Years Old (Audio CD)
A nicely recorded CD, that conveys the space and atmosphere of a interesting music composer. The composer Part cuts his sound down to its minimum components, so instead of a full orchestra and choir you have the essential players only. The use of space and acoustic in the music process is critical to this music. The music of Part has a spiritual quality to it that is timeless and has instant appeal that will reward listeners on each listen. An interesting CD that is well worth investigating. The CD comes with a booklet inside a slipcase. The booklet contains information about the music and contains pictures from the recording sessions that were attended by Part. The only quibble for me is that the booklet is separate to the CD, and it would have been nice to have some of the photos from the recording sessions used on the CD rather than the red lettering and the green cover - a minor point only so don't let that deter you. Ray H [Peterborough]
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "After a long journey...", 15 Feb 2010
This review is from: Miserere [VINYL] (Vinyl)
After a couple of times having received a record that was damaged -and after having written and waited - i finally received a full refund - which was very satisfactory!
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