"Contemporary classical music which genuinely touches people is rare, but the rapt, contemplative music of Arvo Pärt communicates readily, and without pandering to the demands of a mass audience." -- Nick Kimberley
"It is enough when a single note is beautifully played." -- Arvo Pärt
These two comments shed light on Arvo Pärt, both the music and the man. An intensely private man who came of age in repressive Stalinist Soviet Estonia but who always maintained his stalwart religious beliefs, against all fashion, and who, though he started out as an avant-gardist, became the prophet of what has been called 'the new simplicity,' Arvo Pärt is perhaps the most beloved composer of classical music in the world. His music is known by people who have almost no interest otherwise in classical music, largely because of the effect it has on even the casual listener, as reflected in Nick Kimberley's comment above. It also has devoted followers among the musical cognoscenti. His piece 'Fratres,' in its myriad forms, is his most widely performed work, but it is probably his ecstatic 'Passio' that has created the most devoted following, particularly following its first recording by the Hilliard Ensemble on the ECM label.
This release has two CDs chockfull of unfailingly beautiful performances of Pärt's music, generally in complete movements taken from releases by Naxos and other labels. Such disparate works as his spare piano piece, 'Für Alina,' movements of his Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3, the 'Berliner Messe,' the 'Magnificat,' 'Collage über B-A-C-H,' 'Spiegel im Spiegel,' and 'Triodion,' are represented here. Two versions of 'Fratres' are included, one for cello and piano, the other for percussion and strings. His cello and orchestra work, 'Pro et Contra,' is performed by Frans Helmerson and the Bamberg Symphony under Neeme Järvi. Excerpts from 'Passio' ('Passion According to the Gospel of St. John') from the recording by Antony Pitts, Pärt expert and a composer in his own right, and his choral group Tonus Peregrinus are particularly haunting. Celebrated organist Kevin Bowyer is heard playing Pärt's 'Annum per annum.'
The illuminating accompanying essay, 70 pages long, is by Nick Kimberley, a noted British arts critic. All of this is in a glossy booklet enclosed in a cardboard box, typical of Naxos's classy presentation of both recorded music and booklet notes.
This release is for all those who are already devotees of Pärt's music and for those who are just coming to admire his music. The budget price makes it all the more attractive.
2 CDs TT=164mins
This double CD features 19 works by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Some tracks have complete short works, like Für Alina, the Magnificat, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, a string setting of the Summa, The Beatitudes, two settings of the Fratres, Spiegel im Spiegel. Other tracks feature extracts of larger works, like movements from the 1st and 3rd Symphonies, the Berlin Mass, and two movements from the Passio. Most of Pärt's music is incredibly peaceful, beautiful, and spiritually captivating, even on first hearing. Other pieces however are atonal and take much more listening to get attuned to and I doubt if they would ever become accompaniments to spiritual meditation. But such pieces are in the minority here and there is so much on these CDs to spiritually uplift the listener. Because the tracks are taken from other Naxos CDs, there are various performers. Of the choral pieces though, I must mention the beautiful Elora Festival Singers from Toronto under the direction of their founder Noel Edison who perform on five tracks. There is great variety in the music here - instrumental, organ, strings, and choral to provide a most enjoyable selection. Well done Naxos for bringing these pieces together!
on 5 November 2011
This is a fine selection of Arvo Pärt's music, and the booklet which comes with it provides some interesting background info on the composer and the pieces. The CD is worth getting for the beautiful and haunting first track: Fur Aline alone! There were some tracks where I wasn't so taken with this particular recording of them (for example I much prefer Tasmin Little playing Spiegel im Spiegel) but that's just my preference.