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Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)
Da pacem Domine (2004) [5:40]
(Da pacem Domine; In diebus nostris; Quia non est alius; Qui pugnet pro nobis; Nisi tu Deus noster)
The Hilliard Ensemble: Sarah Leonard, soprano; David James, counter-tenor; Rogers Covey-Crump, tenor; Stephen Harrold, tenor; Gordon Jones, baritone
Lamentate for piano and orchestra (Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture "Marsyas") (2002) [37:04]
(Minacciando [2:38]; Spietato [3:33]; Fragile [1:04]; Pregando – state d’animo [5:25]; Consolante [1:21]; Stridento [1:31]; Lamentabile [5:46]; Risolutamente [2:45]; Fragile e conciliante [6:56])
Alexei Lubimov (piano)
SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Andrey Boreyko
rec. June 2004, Stadthalle Sindelfingen. Germany. DDD
ECM NEW SERIES ECM 1930 [42.46]

This ECM New Series disc of works by Arvo Pärt opens with Da Pacem Domine, a four-part a cappella prayer for peace. Composed in 2004, it has a typically Pärt-ian timeless, floating beauty of sound. The performance by the Hilliard Ensemble is resonant and well paced.

The bulk of this rather short disc (42 mins) is taken up with Lamentate, a work that Pärt describes as a "lament for the living", inspired by Anish Kapoor’s Tate Modern exhibit "Marsyas". At first, I found this work deeply exciting – particularly with its wild, frantic, exultant and monumental Spietato. Yet the work continually veers from these moments of delirious, tempestuous, disharmonious, extrovert tumult to those of great introversion, spacious stillness and peace, almost Einaudi-like in their simplicity. My first impressions of awe and exhilaration soon turned to boredom, as I began to find the work, as Josef Holbrooke said of poor old Goossens "arduous or exhilarating by turns". The main problem with it is that it lacks consistency of inspiration, and that it goes on far too long, with nothing to say. Pärt’s music is usually contemplative and reserved - wonderfully so - but this totally lacks body and substance. Some harsh critics might claim that this is what happens when one takes a lump of metal in the Tate Modern as one’s inspiration rather than the Divine. In any case the result is pretty tinkling sounds interspersed with some booms and bangs, without any meaning, and a complete lack of spiritual backbone. My intense irritation at the Einaudi-esque parts were further exacerbated by an awfully artificial-sounding, reverberant tinkly piano.

Despite good – if extremely resonant - performances of both pieces, this is not a disc I can recommend except possibly to Einaudi fans. Da Pacem Domine is inoffensive -if less exciting and inspired than most of Pärt’s output - but Lamentate I would never have guessed was by Pärt, of whom I used to be a fairly ardent admirer. I find it curiously apt that so tortuous and occasionally tormenting a piece was inspired by a sculpture named after a satyr who was tortured by being flayed alive after challenging Apollo to a musical competition.

Em Marshall



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