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Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)
Berliner Messe for choir and string orchestra (revised V/1992)
Cantate Domino Canticum Novum (Psalm 95) (1977 revised 1996)
De Profundis (1980)
Summa (1977)
The Beatitudes (1990 revised 1991)
Magnificat (1989)
Jurgen Petrenko (organ)
Elora Festival Singers and Orchestra/Noel Edison
Recorded at Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, May 2003
NAXOS 6.110052

The notes to this convincing programme indicate its direction in giving an overview to the "expressive opening-out and harmonic enrichment of Pärtís musical vocabulary" around the time of the composition of the St John Passion in 1982, up to that point Pärtís longest work. Nothing therefore is new to his discography but these highly accomplished performers are clearly well versed in the idiom and catch the essential Pärt with imagination and technical security.

The chant like asceticism of Cantate Domino Canticum Novum, a setting of Psalm 95, is for four-part chorus and organ Ė the latter instrument having an important part to play in terms of registral colour and Jurgen Petrenko suitably aerates the textures with considerable skill. The Berliner Messe was originally written for four solo voices and organ but is heard here in the revised version for choir and strings (it also exists for choir and organ). A work that begins with reflective intimacy in the Kyrie grows progressively more external in the Gloria and, via the added Alleluia Verses, reaches its rhythmically most alert moments in the Veni Sancte Spiritus. Pärtís use of a static pedal in the strings allows for real motion above it and itís the workís most diverting movement. The Credo is better known as his Summa, here recycled (Handel did it, I suppose, why not Pärt) and the Agnus Dei takes us back to reflection and stillness.

The basses cope well with the famous De Profundis and the original version of Summa, dating from 1977 shows the more spare and austere primary inspiration, which was later to be rather more boldly embroidered in the Mass. His first English setting, The Beatitudes, grows steadily to a climax with a final nobly conceived Amen; it seems more convincing a structure than the 1989 Magnificat with which the disc ends.

Fine notes and excellent, committed performances. This disc has been released in several formats and this is the SACD multichannel Surround Sound hybrid mastered in DSD but compatible with CD players. Iíve not been able to sample it in its more expansive medium but it sounds warm and immediate on a standard CD.

Jonathan Woolf


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