Arvo Pärt’s music comes in various shades, and for those of us who prefer the most calm-inducing pieces, this release, which features shorter and more recent compositions, is a great find.
No one does Pärt like ECM and these seventeen voices create a collection as peaceful and pure as any I have yet heard.
Label: ECM Records
Time: 13 Tracks / 62 mins
Vox Clamantis (who sang on Pärt’s Adam’s Lament) are a joy to listen to, with ECM founder Manfred Eicher creating a perfect sound: it is beautifully pure and clear, enhanced and gently softened by the warm resonance of Tallinn Transfiguration Church.
The group was formed to specialise in Gregorian chant and early polyphony, but have grown to be friendly collaborators with their fellow Estonian composer. He composed “Alleluia Tropus” for them, and they were able to persuade him to keep “Virgincita” on the tracklist, when he was going to remove it.
As well as two fine first-time recordings – which unfortunately only total less than four minutes – about half of these pieces are rarely-recorded works, including some of the highlights. “Sei Gelobt, du Baum” is for a male choir, with a dusting of violin, double bass and lute; “Von Angesicht zu Angesicht,” based on 1 Corinthians 13:12, is a piece that displays what Pärt does best: treating the voices like an instrument, and bringing in long-held notes that appear, harmonise and disappear.
Right from the start, the old favourite “Da Pacem Dominie” similarly shows the sheer beauty of this minimalism – something to which Vox Clamantis give a high priority.
The title track – a setting of the Lorica of St. Patrick – shows how they can also add drama to a work, while retaining its sense of peace. It is one of nine á capella pieces across the disc.
There is occasional and subtle instrumentation – an organ, clarinet or strings backing here and there – but only in the barest amounts. It is enough to add some colour to the voices without overpowering them.
Pärt is an extraordinary man, whose music was the most-performed globally of any living composer in the five years prior to his 80th birthday last year, ahead of John Adams and John Williams. Although little is in English, the music is almost entirely expressions of his Orthodox faith: a creed, psalms, other scripture passages and liturgy.
If you have yet to discover the work of this man, The Deer’s Cry would make a terrific companion to last year’s Musica Selecta 2CD overview. Only three and a half pieces overlap: “Da Pacem Domine;” “Most Holy Mother of God;” the finale of “Kanon Pokajanen” and “Alleluia Tropus.” The latter is not only highly complementary in this new version, being á capella, but has a stunningly clear sound in this mix, because the vocals are the feature, with nothing to compete for attention.
For anyone who likes minimalism, this really is essential listening.