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Part: Cantique / Jarvi, Berlin Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester, Rias Kammerchor

Release Date: 09/21/2010 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 775391   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony OrchestraBerlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I can't help but feel that I've heard this music--the Stabat Mater--before, and indeed I have, but in an earlier version for three soloists and string trio. But even so, the writing style is so similar to many other works by Arvo Pärt that I have to admit to a fading interest in yet another slow-moving expression of simple, repetitive intervals--minor-sixths, minor-thirds, major-seconds, perfect-fifths, occasional leaps to join another voice in a dissonant minor-second or minor-ninth, echoing two-note figures--repeated and repeated. Some have described the style as "mystical minimalism", Pärt calls it "tintinnabuli technique"--and as far as it goes, it can be quite affecting, engrossing, meditative, and perhaps Read more for some, mesmerizing, in a good way. Mind you, I like Pärt's music, and I've written very positively about it for the past 25 or so years; it's just that the technique is getting old, and pieces such as this newly revised Stabat Mater, beautiful as the sonorities are--and they are as lovely as anything Pärt has written--and evocative of Mary's grief as it may be--at nearly 30 minutes leaves you impressed with the technical facility but longing for a new idea.

The Symphony No. 3 (1971) has enjoyed several fine recordings already, including two conducted by the work's dedicatee and the present conductor's father, Neeme Järvi, one for BIS in the early 1990s and one for DG in the latter '90s. It's an ingratiating work, with attractive themes, many subtle mood shifts, and varied orchestral textures that effectively convey the work's obvious stylistic references to medieval and Renaissance practice. It's the sort of piece that's hard to wreck, and this performance certainly doesn't disappoint, although I'm not sure what it's doing on this recording, other than to provide a substantial, fool-proof "filler" for the two world-premiere choral pieces.

The other world-premiere, Cantique des degrés, for four-part mixed choir and orchestra and based on Psalm 121 (known as "A Song of degrees"), is another revision of an earlier work, but this one, from the orchestral scoring to the choral textures, voicing, and melodic lines, at least through its beginning two or three minutes (and many other places as well) could fool a listener into thinking this is a lost work of Brahms. It's certainly more than aware of that composer's choral/orchestral style, and it would make a fine companion (a fascinating juxtaposition both musically and philosophically) to, say, the Schicksalslied on a concert program. At least you can say that this doesn't sound like the same old Pärt, and even though most of Pärt's works have roots in much earlier styles, Cantique does not share its "romantic" garb with its predominantly minimalist brothers and sisters.

The playing and singing are first-rate--the choir's technique, particularly intonation and phrasing and sensitivity to ensemble balance deserve special praise. The sound in the symphony and in the more dense choral sections is not as clear and detailed regarding inner parts as would be ideal, but overall this is not a big deal. Truly, this is an essential addition to the Arvo Pärt discography--a certain acquisition for fans of the composer and of modern choral music.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; Estonia 
Stabat Mater by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; Estonia 
Cantique des degrès by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Period: 21st Century 
Written: Estonia 

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