Pärt’s Canon of Repentance

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

It’s rarely a positive sign when a review begins–or ends–with, “if you like this sort of thing you’ll enjoy this program…”; but I like this sort of thing, so I’m offering that opening as assurance that fans of Arvo Pärt’s music will find no surprises here–in fact, here they will find signature Pärt, moving, meditative, mixing the exclamatory with the prayerful, offered in its most inward, intimate form. This is not for the concert hall, or even perhaps for any usual church setting. It just is, as they say, what it is. There’s not even anything here that presents itself as a stand-alone choral piece: this is essentially a liturgical sequence, in Church Slavonic, “a long hymn composed of nine odes” making up a Canon of Repentance–you can read the details of its origin and Pärt’s approach to it in the recording’s informative notes.

Unless you are following the texts carefully you won’t know what the music is about, nor will you detect any departure by the composer from the style of most of his compositions over the last 10 or 20 years. This work dates from 1998 and here receives a magnificent and consistently reverent performance that upholds its spiritual inspiration while, through the world-class performance of Daniel Reuss’ Cappella Amsterdam, conveying the full measure of its immediate musical beauty joined to a broader, universal message. When you write about Pärt’s music you often find yourself using terms such as “moving”, “meditative”, “inspirational”, “intimate”–and that’s what this program is. And “if you like this sort of thing…”, well, you know if you want this.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

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