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Pärt: In Principio / Kaljuste, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Release Date: 03/03/2009 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 001259902   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Arvo PärtArvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber ChoirEstonian National Symphony OrchestraTallinn Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

See the complete Arvo Pärt catalog on ECM.

This release provides an impressive overview of Pärt's recent stylistic development covering six touching compositions of different scale and instrumentation written between 1989 and 2005.

Music in turns grandiose and tender, archaic and lively, bringing together the striking physical impact of pieces like Orff's "Carmina Burana" and Part's own "Tintinnabuli" magic.

Outstanding performances of great clarity and sensitivity from some of Part's long-standing musical partners.

R E V I E W S:

"Arvo Pärt has put his finger on something
Read more that is almost impossible to put into words – something to do with the power of music to obliterate the rigidities of space and time. One after the other, his chords silence the noise of the self, binding the mind to an eternal present." -- Alex Ross, The New Yorker


Who would have thought that one of the essential composers of the late 20th century (and early 21st) would be a Baltic neo-medievalist? Just goes to show you how cracked “linear” theories of history and aesthetics can turn out to be. Arvo Pärt has violated all the rules: his music has cultivated simplicity, it is overtly religious, it basks in a tonality that is often pre-common practice. And above all, it offers consolation, but not of a cheap, New Agey sort. During this review cycle, I was flat on my back with a bug, and this was the release I instinctively reached for. And it didn’t disappoint.

Pärt’s practice and resultant voice are so clearly defined by now that it is easy to see him writing the same piece over and over, but that is a misapprehension. Of all the works on this program, Da pacem Domine (written in memoriam to the victims of the 2004 Madrid train bombings) is probably closest to the stripped-down yet rich sound we associate with the composer. But the recent music in premiere recordings (represented here in most substantial form by In principio, 2003, for chorus and orchestra, and the 2005 orchestral La Sindone ) has grown freer, less process-driven, and richer in its orchestration. Some of the originality has been lost—we don’t have here, for example, the extraordinary cello-choir sound of Fratres— but what is gained is a fully integrated roundness of sound. I found myself feeling a similarity to something past, and after a while it struck me: Brahms. This is not as far-fetched as one might think. Pärt has a similar reverence for tradition, a deep love of counterpoint, a disciplined humanism. La Sindone (an evocation of the shroud of Turin) develops over time into a remarkable lacy and lilting texture of interlocked lines that feels directly connected to the great polyphonic tradition all the way back to Bach (and beyond). Of course, there can still be striking reductionist gestures: the choral part of the first movement of In principio is nothing but an A-Minor chord. Nevertheless, complexity also has its part: to take just one example, the arrangement of the organ work Mein Weg (1989/2000) for strings has a propulsive layering of ideas that is gently relentless.

I’m not giving a detailed exegesis of all the pieces because, despite the differences noted above, they feel like variants of a similar theme from the workbench of a master artist. Minor carps? The recording of Da pacem Domine is too boomy for my taste, and in the pre-release materials I was given, its text and translations were included, but not those of the other choral works; perhaps that will be rectified in the final booklet. But overall this is a very satisfying release, another posting from the ongoing creative and spiritual journey of a major composer. A must for those who follow Pärt’s evolution, and not a bad introduction for those not yet familiar with his work.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

In principio by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir,  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Written: 2003; Berlin, Germany 
La Sindone by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Written: 2005; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 15 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Cecilia, vergine romana by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra,  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Written: 2000; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 16 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Da pacem Domine by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir,  Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004; Germany 
Length: 5 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Berlin, Germany 
Length: 6 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Berlin, Germany (1989).
Composition revised: Berlin, Germany (1994). 
Für Lennart in memoriam by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Tönu Kaljuste
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Written: 2006; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 22 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

In principio: I. In principio erat Verbum
In principio: III. Erat lux vera

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