The second ECM New Series album to fully showcase pure-toned Estonian vocal group Vox Clamantis and its artistic director/conductor Jaan-Eik Tulve is devoted to compositions by their great countryman, Arvo Pärt – whose music has been the most performed globally of any living composer over the past five years. This album – titled The Deer’s Cry after its first track, an incantatory work for a cappella mixed choir – is also the latest in an illustrious line of ECM New Series releases to feature Pärt’s compositions, the very music that inspired Manfred Eicher to establish the New Series imprint in 1984.
A collection of musical gems by great contemporary composers of the minimalist and postminimalist trend. Music of Steve Reich (Vermont Counterpoint, New York Counterpoint - first recording of the saxophone version), Arvo Pärt (Pari Intervallo), Hans Otte (Eins), Ludovico Einaudi (Quattro Passi), Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (For you Ann Lill, Op.58), skilfully interpreted by Andrea Ceccomori and Goffredo Degli Esposti on the flutes, Paul Wehage on the saxophones, Cecilia Chailly on harp and Fabrizio Ottaviucci on piano.
This fourth volume in the Kristjan Järvi Sound Project series is a tribute to his close friend and countryman composer Arvo Pärt, one of the most emblematic figures in contemporary music, to mark the celebration of his 80th birthday. Constantly inspired by pioneering, thrilling and exhilarating ideas, American-Estonian conductor Kristjan Järvi has gathered works spanning 40 years of Pärt’s compositions, as a culmination of of years of collaboration, musical exploration and spiritual connection.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat's collection of Arvo Pärt's piano music spans nearly 50 years of his career, from student pieces written in 1958 to a work from 2006. This would not be the right album for listeners looking primarily for Pärt's legendary austere simplicity, but it would be ideal for anyone already familiar with the composer looking for exposure to the broad stylistic and expressive range of which he is capable.
The symphonies of Arvo Pärt will surprise anyone familiar with his contemplative, mature style. Pärt began life as a member of the Eastern European modern school, not so far removed from contemporaries such as Penderecki and Górecki. His three symphonies show his gradual renunciation of the more radical aspects of his musical syntax, a return to emotional directness, and the beginnings of that otherworldly quality that has become the outstanding feature of his later work. Not all listeners have traveled the path with him, some finding his recent music tedious and pretentious rather than spiritual, and these three relatively early symphonies really do add a welcome depth and roundness of profile to a composer who can all too easily seem one-dimensional. It's important to keep in mind that, unlike so many members of today's pseudospiritual school of composers (England's John Tavener being the prime example), Pärt is a real composer operating even in the most mystical musings. Järvi deserves real credit for calling attention to this fact in such a powerful way.
The music of Arvo Part is one of the great consolations of our age. Often described as out of step with the times, his choral compositions display continuity with the great liturgical music of the 16th Century and earlier. Richly-textured, driven by what seems to be an unshakeable faith and commitment, his church music is certainly composed from an ethical standpoint which few these days can share. Yet he is unmistakably of our time, and that is what makes him so wonderful. From the first notes of this wonderful Mass, we are aware that Part is a contemporary, a sufferer, the great soul we never expected to meet.