Paul Hillier brings two choirs together, juxtaposing the Norse with America choirs with songs, psalms and instrumental chamber music by the NYYD quartet from different periods in Arvo Part's career.Although Part has seemingly reconstructed polyphony and melodic shaping into a minimalist form his sense of silence and musical notation is ethereal in similar ways to Josquin, Tallis or Victoria. However one piece is different: Sofeggio. According to the booklet it was originally composed for choir ' before Part's "conversion" to tonality and invention of tintinnabull technique'. But to my ears it sounds very much like his post conversion pieces, perhaps a little less tonal, but very much Part none-the-less. I do not feel that this is the best Part anthology and suggest that newcomers to hear Part at his most magnificent look elsewhere (e.g. The Berlin Mass), but Hillier has always championed Part and so must be considered to be an authority on his music and as such shines his light on less familiar works. It was Hillier with the Hilliard Ensemble that introduced me to Part with the ECM recording of St John's passion( a true revelation upon first hearing) and for this and his other recordings I remain truly grateful. Ars Nova and the Theatre of Voices are both world class choirs and the purchase of this CD should gratify established admirers of Part's choral music and perhaps those who prefer Part's 'water colours' to his 'oils'.
Time must stop during the performance of the Stabat Mater by Arvo Part. So intensely is that time felt. Three strings, three high voices, together make this most painful of religious texts, well...painful(ly beautiful).
I remember the fierce beauty of Wagner's Parsifal I experienced when I was young and hopeful and I was reminded of that listening to the Veni creator for organ and choir which opens the disc. Theatre of Voices & Ars Nova Copenhagen combined; elsewhere, ANC get all the English language music (curiously), but ToV get the Stabat Mater. The chamber theme is consolidated by the NYYD Quartet in arrangements of the pilgrim's song, Psalom and Solfeggio.
All but two pieces were new to me and I have enjoyed the whole album, prefering Part's miniatures to the biggies like Kanon Pokajanen or Passio. Harmonia Mundi's production doesn't have quite the precious religiosity of ECM Arvo Part - Arbos making it more of this world, or less boutique holy minimalism than its predecessor on record. The b/w photo is slightly reminiscent of ECM, though. The Harmonia Mundi's trump card, if you are focused on the Stabat Mater, is the booklet inclusion of texts and translations.
UPDATE 10/2014: I have to revise my rating because with time the major woe of this album has revealed itself. It is simply too dour, too heavy-going, dragging you down into the abyss. The spirit is burdened. The Stabat Mater is too much masochism for me.
As with the other recordings of Part's music, this is an exquisite rendition of his beautiful and original music. I was happy to see Morning Star included, a piece I heard performed in Paris in the presence of Mr. Part.