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Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Orchestral music
Summa (1978)
Trisagion (1982?)
Symphony No. 3 (1971)
Fratres (1977-82)
Silouans Song (1980s?)
Festina Lente (1980s?)
Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten (1977)
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi, conductor
Recorded in the 'Estonia' Concert Hall, Tallinn, 9th- 17th June 2000.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 7243 5 45501 2 6


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This disc could just as well be entitled 'The Essential Pärt', so far as the non-choral works are concerned anyway. There are now many alternative versions of most of these pieces, including the symphony on DG or Naxos and who knows how many different versions of the various permutations of Fratres. However, the disc in question has rather more claims on your attention than most, its authenticity being the most obvious.

Neeme Järvi almost single-handedly brought Estonian music to international attention in the early eighties and now his son Paavo, in this recording and the previous "Searching for Roots", has continued in that vein. One of my most treasured musical possessions is a copy of the original BIS LP of Tubin's wonderful Sinfonia Lirica (4th Symphony) with its cover photos of the ailing composer, Neeme and a young Paavo, alongside a Swedish lake, just taking in one of the "white nights" of the north.

So, as I have intimated, the performances, as idiomatic as they could be with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, are superb. Summa is an instrumental version of a vocal piece and none the worse for it. Trisagion is an extended meditation that stands up well (a complement indeed!) against the original ECM version (on the Litany disc). The symphony is performed better than (or at least as well as) the previous versions and remains a very interesting listen despite the booklet notes attempts to see it in terms of Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Sibelius.

The hypnotic textures of the Britten-dedicated Cantus are perhaps the most widely known of Pärt's work but the last word probably ought to be afforded, as it is in the booklet notes, to Silouans Song. This is another haunting piece that first emerged on ECM alongside a major choral work (Te Deum) and for this listener at least, the composer's greatest moments seem to emanate from his more intimate inspirations (some piano pieces - Alina etc. - are marvellous microcosms of a greater soundworld).

Whatever, this collection is self-recommending and, even at top price banding, is an ideal introduction to the non-choral work of a modern genius. A superb disc.

Neil Horner

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