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Arvo Pärt: A (Birthday) Tribute

David Vernier

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[We celebrate Arvo Pärt’s 88th birthday today with a pair of re-posts from our archives.] Anyone who has followed choral music during the past three or four decades knows at least some of the works of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This compilation features a fair selection of his (primarily a cappella) pieces from the 1990s–but if you already own the recordings from which these performances are drawn, you’ll find a nice bonus here: the newly recorded Dopo la vittoria (Following the victory). This substantial (11-minute) “picola cantata”, premiered in 1997, tells of St. Ambrose and his famous hymn Te Deum. No doubt this lively (some parts sound like folk-dance) and dramatically varied work–another masterpiece of text-explication and expressive use of vocal color and texture–will gain many performances and enthusiastic audiences, joining Pärt favorites such as Bogoroditse Djevo, Magnificat, and the Berliner Messe.

Although it’s these latter two works that perhaps are most closely identified with Pärt’s unique “tintinnabuli” style–the endlessly resonating triads and undulating, register-shifting consonances and dissonances–The woman with the alabaster box and I am the true vine may be his most purely, fundamentally beautiful compositions, melodically, harmonically, and from the standpoint of choral sound and texture. Whatever your preference, this is important and profoundly moving music in which almost anyone can find meaning, even spiritual resonance. The performances are uniformly excellent, even essential, and the recordings couldn’t be better. This tribute to Pärt on his 70th birthday (b. September 11, 1935) is an absolute joy. [8/4/2005]

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ARVO PÄRT - Dopo la vittoria; The woman with the alabaster box; Berliner Messe; Solfeggio; Magnificat; Bogoroditse Djevo; Which was the son of...; I am the true vine

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