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Arvo Part: Symphony No. 4

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, 23 Aug 2010
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
  • Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Tonu Kaljuste
  • Composer: Arvo Part
  • Audio CD (23 Aug. 2010)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM New Series
  • ASIN: B003NHY6HK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,779 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No 4 'Los Angeles' (2008), I Con sublimità
  2. II Affannoso
  3. III Deciso
  4. Fragments from Kanon Pokajanen (1997)

Product description

Product Description

Arvo Pärt returns to symphonic structure and scope, in a new work scored for string orchestra, harp, tympani and percussion: the Symphony No. 4 'Los Angeles'. Almost 40 years after his Third Symphony, the Estonian composer wrote his Fourth for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen - and ECM releases their premiere performance, recorded live in January 2009, to celebrate Pärt's 75th birthday.

This is the first symphonic work Pärt has written since developing his "tintinnabulation" style. A composition in three movements, it opens with characteristically shimmering suspended chords, and an extraordinary journey begins. "The symphony is large", wrote Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, "and exceedingly beautiful".

The Fourth Symphony is both literally and figuratively a 'musical setting', based on an underlying text. Canon of the Guardian Angel forms the work's point of departure, determining its structure down to the smallest details. It was recorded live at LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall. The 37-minute work is augmented on disc by a new montage of "fragments" of Kanon Pokajanen, a piece which Pärt feels is closely related to the symphony. "To my mind, the two works belong together and form a stylistic unity."

Personnel: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor), Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Tonu Kaljuste (conductor)

BBC Review

A new symphony is always an exciting musical event, but Arvo Pärt's Fourth Symphony feels particularly noteworthy. First, it's almost 40 years since he composed his Third, in 1971. Second, the universal popularity of works such as Spiegel im Spiegel means Pärt is more in the collective consciousness than many contemporary composers.

The symphony's subtitle, Los Angeles, refers as much to its subject matter as to the fact that the LA Philharmonic are its co-commissioners, for it's a wordless setting of an angel-related text, Canon of the Guardian Angel. Scored for string orchestra, harp, timpani and percussion, its three movements are correspondingly ecclesiastical in mood: modal harmonies, repetitions, and the percussion massively evocative of the bells and clangs associated with the rituals of the Orthodox Church. Like much of Pärt's other works, it weaves the effect of musical suspension in time, helped by motivic and stylistic similarities across its three movements. Each movement, however, also has its own character. The first creeps into being with hushed, high shimmering strings. The second begins with a series of percussive musical tiptoes, like a tragedy-tinged musical version of the grandmother’s footsteps game. In the third, the bells which hitherto have evoked the tinkling chimes of a church service suddenly develop a tolling tone more akin to a death-knell.

A clue to the work’s tragic mood lies in its dedication to an imprisoned Russian entrepreneur. It isn't a political statement though, insists Pärt. Instead, it's “a bow to the great power of human spirit and human dignity”. Compare it to the Third Symphony, which does feel heavy with anti-Soviet feeling, and this rings true. Nevertheless, the Fourth is still an unrelentingly sombre listen. It’s beautiful too though, and some of the charged atmosphere of its concert premiere, when this recording was taken, has transferred to disc. The LA Philharmonic weave an atmosphere of controlled, tragically noble limbo, with wide-ranging and finely controlled dynamics, easy transitions from chamber to orchestral textures, and a hauntingly beautiful third-movement violin solo.

The Estonian Philharmonic Choir are just as effective in the Kanon Pokajanen fragments. These lift the mood, if not to full-blown happiness then certainly to a better spiritual place, delivered in a crisply enunciated, religiously-weighted performance.

--Charlotte Gardner

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