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Arvo Pärt: A Portrait
Arvo Part, Neeme Järvi, Tamás Benedek
Arvo Pärt: A Portrait
Genres: Special Interest, Classical


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A Written and Sound Portrait of One of Our Most Important Co
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 07/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Contemporary classical music which genuinely touches people is rare, but the rapt, contemplative music of Arvo Pärt communicates readily, and without pandering to the demands of a mass audience." -- Nick Kimberley

"It is enough when a single note is beautifully played." -- Arvo Pärt

These two comments shed light on Arvo Pärt, both the music and the man. An intensely private man who came of age in repressive Stalinist Soviet Estonia but who always maintained his stalwart religious beliefs, against all fashion, and who, though he started out as an avant-gardist, became the prophet of what has been called 'the new simplicity,' Arvo Pärt is perhaps the most beloved composer of classical music in the world. His music is known by people who have almost no interest otherwise in classical music, largely because of the effect it has on even the casual listener, as reflected in Nick Kimberley's comment above. It also has devoted followers among the musical cognoscenti. His piece 'Fratres,' in its myriad forms, is his most widely performed work, but it is probably his ecstatic 'Passio' that has created the most devoted following, particularly following its first recording by the Hilliard Ensemble on the ECM label.

This release has two CDs chockfull of unfailingly beautiful performances of Pärt's music, generally in complete movements taken from releases by Naxos and other labels. Such disparate works as his spare piano piece, 'Für Alina,' movements of his Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3, the 'Berliner Messe,' the 'Magnificat,' 'Collage über B-A-C-H,' 'Spiegel im Spiegel,' and 'Triodion,' are represented here. Two versions of 'Fratres' are included, one for cello and piano, the other for percussion and strings. His cello and orchestra work, 'Pro et Contra,' is performed by Frans Helmerson and the Bamberg Symphony under Neeme Järvi. Excerpts from 'Passio' ('Passion According to the Gospel of St. John') from the recording by Antony Pitts, Pärt expert and a composer in his own right, and his choral group Tonus Peregrinus are particularly haunting. Celebrated organist Kevin Bowyer is heard playing Pärt's 'Annum per annum.'

The illuminating accompanying essay, 70 pages long, is by Nick Kimberley, a noted British arts critic. All of this is in a glossy booklet enclosed in a cardboard box, typical of Naxos's classy presentation of both recorded music and booklet notes.

This release is for all those who are already devotees of Pärt's music and for those who are just coming to admire his music. The budget price makes it all the more attractive.

2 CDs TT=164mins

Scott Morrison"
Not the best performances, but still a pretty good collectio
Christopher Culver | 04/20/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Naxos has never provided the best performances of the music of Arvo Part--the long line of ECM recordings were made under the composer's supervision and thus may be seen as definitive--but the collection ARVO PART: A PORTRAIT is a nice effort indeed. Issued in 2005, the year of the Estonian composer's 70th birthday, this package features selections from nearly his entire career over two discs, in recordings drawn from the Naxos, BIS, and Nimbus labels, and also contains a 78-page booklet with Nick Kimberley's essay "Arvo Part: A Musical Journey".

Arvo Part came to worldwide attention through the minimalistic and overtly spiritual music he began composing in the mid-1970s, but ARVO PART: A Portrait features some music from his early career as well. Part was something of an enfant terrible in the Soviet music world, and in the 1960s he infuriated the socialist realist musical establishment by producing dodecaphonic and collage works through the 1960s. From this era we get the second movement of the Symphony No. 1, the "Collage ueber B-A-C-H", and the cello concerto "Pro et Contra". One does regret, however, that his important piece "Credo", discussed at some length in Kimberley's piece, is not featured here, but perhaps Naxos could not find a recording that could be licensed for inclusion here.

The bulk of the collection, however, is dedicated to Part's "holy minimalism" output, a style which he calls "tintinnabuli" for its bell-like tones. Two selections from his hour-long masterpiece "Passio" are included here, one begin four minutes long and the other twelve. Of the "Berliner Messe" we have the Kyrie and Credo, and the other late pieces here are included full-length.

"Fur Alina", the exceedingly simple piano piece he wrote in 1976, breaking a silence of nearly a decade, is featured here in its scored form in performance by Alexei Lubimov. The ECM recording of this piece is a much longer improvisation by Alexander Malter, so this Naxos collection (or the BIS disc the selection was drawn from) is a good way to hear the piece at its most simple.

Over the last decade or so, Part has began reconciling his tintinnabuli style to the more fiery spirit of his youth. However, none of those pieces, such as "Como cieva sedienta" are represented here, which is regrettable.

While the Naxos performances of Part's music are not the best available, only the Naxos recording of "Tabula Rasa" by the Ulster Orchestra and Takuo Yuasa is outright unlistenable. The rest are acceptable, and this collection makes a more more economical introduction to Part's career than the many full-price ECM discs. And for established Part fans, the included essay by Nick Kimberley is interesting reading, especially when the only other major English-language coverage of Part, Paul Hillier's Arvo Part (Oxford Studies of Composers), is difficult to find."