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Arvo Part - Lamentate CD
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Released to celebrate Arvo Pärts 70th birthday, Lamentate comprises two world premiere recordings: "Da pacem Domine", movingly sung by the Hilliard Ensemble, and the albums title work, a stunning ritual for piano and orchestra - superbly interpreted by Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra under Andrey Boreyko - that was inspired by Anish Kapoors gigantic "Marsyas" sculpture in the Tate Modern (where it was first performed)
Is the Estonian master moving in a new direction in his seventies? He seems to be telling us as much in Lamentate. Yes, you'll hear some of the multi-layered string sonorities and meditative qualities that have become so familiar in Pärt's patented 'ancient-invades-modern' scores, and yet there's a new sense of dramatic power, and a dynamic scale and impatient urgency of communication that's compelling.
Pärt was looking at Anish Kapoor's immense sculpture 'Marsyas', named after the Greek satyr who was flayed alive after losing a musical contest with Apollo. Pärt felt as though he was looking at his own dead body, and had a strong sense that he was not yet ready to die...so what could he achieve in the time he had left to live?
On this evidence, a great deal. 'Lamentate' is a lament not for the dead but the living, struggling with the pain and hopelessness of the world. After a subterranean rumble, a sorrowful fanfare makes way for an ascent of the solo piano keyboard, and a shuddering orchestral climax that sets the tolling of alarm bells against a Mahlerian funeral march. After the work that precedes it (the Hilliard Ensemble's performance of 'Da pacem Domine', a gently rocking prayer for peace) the effect is doubly shattering. Impressive performances, a seductive ECM recording, and works that no-one with an interest in contemporary art and music can afford to miss. --Andrew McGregor
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Top Customer Reviews
Nearly 80 now, he continues to sear the listener with the potency and deep reflection in his work. His music is always something best listened to with full, awake, attention. And the silence and space between notes is as much part of the soundscape as the heard music.
This particular CD consists of 2 works, a short a capella choral piece, Da Pacem Domine, beautifully floated by The Hilliard Ensemble, and a long orchestral piece Lamentate.
Lamentate was inspired when Part saw Anish Kapoor's Marsyas in The Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, and had a kind of cataclysmic, cathartic experience from how he was affected by it. `Lamentate' is not a lament, as is often the case in sacred `Lamentations' for the dead, it is a lamentation for the living - for the fact that we are all in relationship to the knowledge of our own, individual mortality. Whether we consciously seek to live with awareness of that, or whether we live in denial, it shapes us.
As Part's notes on this piece reflect " I have written a lamento - not for the dead, but for the living, who have to deal with these issues for themselves. A lamento for us, struggling with the pain and hopelessness of the world.Read more ›
Commissioned by the Tate, the exemplary spacious ECM recording does conjure up the vast space of Tate Modern's turbine hall, and allows this piece's Mahlerian emotional range to be articulated.
Given the deeply felt subjectivity of Part's works, they can be described as Minimalist only in terms of the small number of notes, the clarity of form and the simplicity of method.
In this, and many other works by Arvo Part, one finds a world contained within a grain of sand.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Lamentate is my 10th Arvo purchase, and once again i am not let down. Anyone familiar with Part knows he has a way with silence, a way of setting up those moments to be the most important of his works. Da Pacem Domine opens the disc with a familiar Part sound that reminds of Magnificat, though perhaps a bit more hopeful and light in sound. The piece slowly moves along with voices moving from consonance to dissonance in the most pleasing way i think can be done, something Part has mastered and implemented in many of his pieces since his period of "silence".
The major work of the disc, Lamentate, shows Part doing something a little different from normal. The biggest difference i found was his use of bass frequencies in the Timpani. Perhaps that is more a product of the mixing/mastering, but as a fan of Dark Ambient music, I could not wipe the smile off my face when i heard the low rumblings through my sub at the start of Minacciando. Very ominous, featuring low frequencies not usually found in classical recordings, and surely not for extended lengths of time (not that there is a constant rumble, but it is for more than a mere instance), which adds quite a dark character to the work. Another interesting difference between most Part works and this is how busy some parts are, particularly in the 2nd movement, Spietato. There is a huge crescendo of brass, cymbals, bass drum thumps and plodding piano chords, over some of the most dissonant chordal progressions of Part's career. The effect is brilliant, and for those forunate to have a 5.1 setup with Dolby Pro Logic II, it is remarkable how each instrument has a very defined "space" of the room, something atypical of most classical recordings.
Further into Lamentate, the piece takes a very familiar approach that reminds of Fur Alina in more than a few ways. The music quiets down to a hush, featuring very sparse piano playing, with hints of subtle strings at times "hiding" in the background. This is possibly my favorite aspect of the piece, as the music has this dichotomy to it which is absolutely thrilling to hear. It leaves the listener waiting for the next moment the piece might pick up the pace, or explode into a terrifying crescendo (akin to Godspeed You! Black Emperor for those finding themselves here from the Post-Rock spectrum), something that, while not a flaw, was missing from the early Part pieces after his silence.
For those already familiar with Part, i unreservedly reccomend purchasing this album, as it is every bit as enthralling as the bulk of Arvo's catalogue. For those new to Part, this would be as good a place as any to start, as all of the elements are here, plus a few new suprises. Arvo part is undoubtably one of the more brilliant musical minds of our time, and something everyone should hear at least once in their life.
The title of Part's work bothered me: Is it Latin? My school Latin is buried under many years, like Babylon under sand. But would that be the plural imperative of "to lament", meaning "lament, you guys!"? I had the sense to Google it and found that, actually, the work was inspired as an "homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture", particularly a piece, Marsyas, displayed at the Tate Galleries - where this piece was first performed. It is not "Lamentate" but rather, "LamenTate." Marsyas, by the way, was the mythical fellow defeated by Apollo in a musical talent show, and then flayed alive for his trouble.
The ten pieces under that title seem, to my not-so-wise ears, to be something of a reconsideration of the ideas a younger Part put forth in 1968's "Credo", which I know through Helene Grimaud's CD. (Interestingly, at least to me, when the piece debuted at the Tate, she was the solo pianist, although Aleksei Lubimov takes that part - quite well - on this recording.)
LamenTate I begins in an undercurrent of percussion, then horns blow discrete notes into a silence, and soon tympani rumble again like a train passing two levels below us. In II, the full orchestra joins, but without the inner antagonism of Credo, the harsh clash of voices/piano/strings struck down by the mechanical forces of brass and percussion. This time out, 30+ years since the Soviets banned "Credo", Part is not contrasting the humane and divine spirit against the hulking mechanism of a totalitarian state. Part has been in the west for a quarter century; for 15 of those years his old foe, his old home, the Soviet Union, has not even existed.
Later it is but strings behind a few sparse piano notes, as silence again becomes a major part of Part's composition. Then the orchestra returns, united, reflecting this sense of unity in Part's universe. Unlike the [UK] Guardian's reviewer, I found the work very satisfying - but I was already a Part fan.
The opening piece, the a capella Hilliard Ensemble performing "Da Pacem Domine" - ah, there's a singular imperative, "da": Give [us] Peace, Lord - is a lovely and peaceful work. The voices float softly, wordlessly, I think, but I am not sure - brushing tones upon one another. You could buy this CD just for the Hilliard piece, or just for the longer work; it is a joy to get both at once. It's not really relevant, but I'd like to add that I hope many of us can have this clarity and serenity on celebrating our 70th birthdays.
Pärt divides the lament into nine parts, all between one to six minutes long. Calm pervades most of the piece. Minimal chiming piano in the style of Pärt's "Für Alina" juxtaposes with orchestral flourishes. But the piece begins with some music atypical for Pärt. Banging drums, bellowing horns, churning scales, ravaging dissonance (parts of which harken back somewhat to Pärt's pre-tintinnabulation style). These sections contain a purging and a power somewhere between "Cantus in memory of Benjamin Brittan" and "Miserere". Silence slowly seeps into the piece commanded by a lone piano and minimal string accompaniment. A stormy beginning leads to a calm and reflective resolution. The orchestra never completely goes away, though. Neither does the storm, which makes some more appearances. The overall structure of the piece suggests strife followed by meditation or reflection. As if the remnants of those tumultuous events floated and hovered in the air leaving us to ask questions while embedded in an uneasy and perhaps dangerously complacent calm.
The first piece on the CD, "Da Pacem Domine" ("Give Peace, Lord") is a gorgeous five minute vocal piece in the classic Pärt style. Given its theme and mood it almost should have followed "Lamentate". Either way, Pärt wrote an incredibly beautiful urge for peace. It premiered in 2004.
Arvo Pärt turned 70 this year. Amazing considering that his musical output remains solid and unwavering. "Lamentate" stands as another great addition to the Pärt catalogue.
I had the opportunity to visit the Tate Modern on the Thames in June of 2004. The Engine Room of the former power generating station is an awesome space, and that is where Part saw the sculpture that inspired "Lamentate" in 2002 (thus the Tate in Lamentate). The premiere performance was in that space, at the foot of the sculpture "Marsyas" in February 2003 -- there is a photo of the event in the booklet. To me, this is a fascinating juxtaposition. Part's music since the mid-1970s represents a conscious rejection of the modernist avant-garde and an assertion of Orthodox religious content along with a pre/postmodern fusion of chant and other early forms with a stripped-down (minimalist) tonality. So here is Part at one of the temples of artistic modernity, drawing inspiration for his work.
APRIL 2016 UPDATE
At the time I first heard LAMENTATE there were personal and political reasons for my tragic inclination, which led me to an immersion in Shostakovich's music, and I initially found this work by Part to be moving. Revisiting it today, I find it has little appeal for me. It is very simple, and very tragic. If that works for you, then this might be just the thing.