Notes and Editorial Reviews
After my discovery of Arvo Pärt in the 1980s, when his extraordinary ?tintinnabulation? pieces became well known in the West, I started to grow a bit tired of his music. It seemed to become ever more austere, so stripped and purified of any ornament or sensuality as to suggest one needed to accept a particular spiritual viewpoint to even begin to appreciate it. I?d seen glimpses of a more open and eclectic practice in a previous ECM release, including
Orient and Occident
Como cievre sedenta
(ECM NEW 1795), but with this recording, I find my
excitement about and engagement with the composer renewed.
(2002) was inspired by an enormous sculpture titled
by Anish Kapoor, which Pärt encountered in London at the Tate Modern. Kapoor is known for his abstract but vaguely biomorphic forms, which are usually clad in mirrored metal. Pärt found the London sculpture overwhelming, and from the picture in the CD booklet, its scale is extraordinary (dwarfing an entire orchestra playing in front of it). Marsyas in mythology was a centaur who was flayed alive by Apollo (there?s a magnificent painting of this by Rubens in the Hermitage), and Pärt found the form and concept of the visual art to suggest that he was ?as a living being, standing before my own body and was dead?as in a time-warp perspective, at once in the future and the present.? The impact was obviously very powerful on him, and he felt compelled to write in response a ?lament for the living.?
The work is a piano concerto, though hardly traditional in most ways the genre is defined. It is in 10 movements, the longest being seven minutes. The writing for the piano is not virtuosic, but it is soloistic. The piano, even when doubling the orchestra, draws attention to particular ideas and gestures or provides a fragile but incisive line to follow. It reminds me a bit of a work of Giya Kancheli I reviewed in
; both works are somewhat ?anti-concertos? in the simplicity of their solo parts, both are drenched in poignancy and a sense of loss. But somehow, Pärt?s work is more successful for me.
I think the reason for that rests in the details of the music. First, there is great variety. Indeed, the second movement, with its crashing chords and brass?the effect is a little like the opening of the Tchaikovsky First Concerto?has some of the most harmonically wrenching music the composer has written in a while. The fifth movement, Solitudine?stato d?animo, is an exquisite set of variations, one of which features the piano in a pearly single line of even 16th notes (listeners familiar with Pärt?s work may find some similarities to the tiny 1977 piano piece
Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinushka
). While not as postmodern as pieces he was writing in the 1970s, there?s a sense of a return to broader and frankly more humanistic concerns here. There?s also a careful web of thematic correspondences that emerge over time and repeated listenings: the seventh movement is a compacted restatement of the first; the sixth serves as a sort of coda to the fifth, etc. While there are grand and stark gestures, they don?t descend into bathos or bombast, perhaps because Pärt exercises a strict restraint on ever going
far in histrionics. The music retains a certain calm at the basis of its tragic tone, and such reserve makes things even more heartrending. It may run a little low on steam near the end, but I hate to nitpick in the face of such obvious authentic expression and beauty.
In short, the music is authoritative. Pärt sounds like a master, a composer whose voice is unmistakable, and who seems able now to dip into whatever part of his practice seems germane to make any point that he deems necessary.
Da pacem Domine
(2004) is a beautiful choral work that sounds genuinely timeless in its materials. One senses it could come as easily from the 15th as the 21st century. Somehow, it straddles both.
The performances are outstanding, though from both ECM and these performers one wouldn?t expect less. Lubimov maintains the perfection of even tone and touch necessary to make materials glow that could be anemic in less musical hands. ECM?s sound is, as usual, sumptuous. The program is a little short, and it would have been nice to have one more work at least. At the same time, I?d rather have this music than wait for something else to fill it out if it?s not readily available. A cause for pleasure?and celebration of a composer whose vision continues to grow.
FANFARE: Robert Carl
Works on This Recording
Da pacem Domine by Arvo Pärt
Period: 20th Century
Written: 2004; Germany
Date of Recording: 04/2005
Venue: Propstei St. Gerold, Austria
Length: 5 Minutes 40 Secs.
Lamentate by Arvo Pärt
Alexei Lubimov (Piano)
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 2004
Venue: Stadthalle Sindelfingen, Germany
Length: 37 Minutes 4 Secs.
Notes: Composition written: Germany (2002 - 2003).
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