Though this collection of works by Estonian genius Arvo Pärt was recorded in 1993 it remains one of the most accessible and well integrated collection of works by this esteemed composer whose admiration among music lovers around the world grows exponentially each year. This brilliantly recorded by the excellent ECM New Series label in Finland with Tõnu Kaljuste and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Despite other performances in concert of this mysterious work, this interpretation by Kaljuste and his fine forces remains the gold standard.
The 'Te Deum' will doubtless always be considered Pärt's masterpiece. Based on the Ambrosian Hymn, the work is in Pärt's tintinnabuli style (a minimalist compositional technique in which a chosen triad encircles a melody. 'Pärt's tintinnabuli music is composed of two main voices: one carries the usually stepwise melody (M-voice) while the other follows the trajectory of the melody but is limited to notes of a specific triad (T-voice.) In the case of Te Deum, it is a D triad that is featured in the T-voice, and as such provides the harmonic basis for the entire piece.') The work seems far more massive than the rather short thirty minute duration, partly because of the power of the sound and the emotional commitment but also bearing in mind that it is a piece scored for three choirs - women, men, and mixed- strings, wind harp, and prepared piano, and this combination of parts creates a complexity of sound that can only be described as otherworldly.
'Silounans Song' is a work dedicated to Archimandrite Sophrony who served as assistant to the nearly illiterate but holy and wise elder at the monastery of St. Panteleimon named Silouan. It is a work for orchestra alone in an orchestration that uses only the fewest number of instrumental voices to convey a sense of suspended time. Of almost equal length is the setting of the 'Magnificat' for chorus alone with soprano solo. The core of this particular work rarely strays from one tonality and is one of Pärt's most successful variations of the chant style of medieval times.
The recording closes with the Berlin Mass and appropriately joins orchestra with chorus to end this collection of works. The setting of the mass is the traditional one but the hallowed variations between the feeling of pulled strings without vibrato with the lush vocal adornment is magnificent. Another fine aspect of this recoding is the book that accompanies it. The texts for the choral works are included as well as a series of photographs taken during the recording sessions and some lovely views of the mystical cathedral space where the recordings were made. This recording belongs in the library of everyone who yearns for solace and for spiritualism of Arvo Pärt's sacred gifts to humanity. Grady Harp, August 10
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Grady Harp (gradyharp)
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Though these pieces are typical of Pärt's style, they seem less bleak than those on previous discs. The Te Deum, while often in a minor tonality and sometimes imposing, has a suitable extroverted quality; the Magnificat, with its hushed intensity, does seem solemn, but its cadences are striking, typically resolving from a tonal chord to a shimmering major-second dissonance. The Berliner Messe includes not only the Mass ordinary, but also three propers for Pentecost, and displays a range of moods from nervous penitence in the Kyrie to lively good cheer in the Credo to serenity in the Agnus Dei. Best is the sequence "Veni sancte spiritus," sung largely in unison to a haunting 6/8 melody. Tiny Estonia, Pärt's homeland, has provided him with some impressive interpreters.--Matthew Westphal