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Arvo PÄRT (b. 1953)
Music for Unaccompanied Choir
Triodion (1998) [13:36]
Tribute to Caesar (1997) [5:33]
Nunc Dimittis (2001) [6:16]
Ode VII (Memento) from Kanon Pokajanen (1994) [7:37]
I Am the true Vine (1996) [6:50]
The Woman with the Alabaster Box (1997) [5:26]

Dopo la Vittoria (1996/1998) [10:39]
Bogoroditse Djevo (1990) [1:28]
Elora Festival Singers/Noel Edison
rec. 19-21 May 2006, St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. DDD
NAXOS 8.570239 [57:26] 
Experience Classicsonline

This disc presents works from between 1990 and 2001 by Arvo Pärt, the Estonian composer who is mainly known for his sacred choral works, with their unmistakable blend of early chant with modern dissonances and Pärt’s signature tintinnabuli style.

Triodion, which opens the disc, was composed in 1998, and was a commission from Lancing College in Sussex to mark its 150th anniversary. Benjamin Britten had been commissioned to write a work for the College’s Centenary, and duly produced St Nicholas - St Nicholas being Lancing’s patron saint. Pärt marks this by using a prayer to St Nicholas in the last of the three Odes that, together with an introduction and coda, form the piece. It is a very simple and sombre work, and is given a suitably austere performance. 

The ensuing Tribute to Caesar was commissioned for the 350th anniversary of the Karlstad Dioclese in Sweden and sets the text from St Matthew which describes the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees: Jesus, when the Pharisees identify Caesar’s head on a coin, tells them to “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. 

The Nunc Dimittis was commissioned by St Mary’s’ Episcopal Church in Edinburgh and premiered at the Edinburgh Festival, and is followed by the Ode VIII from Karon Pokajanen, Pärt’s largest work after his St John Passion. The Odes set the liturgical canon of repentance, and show the influence of Russian Orthodox music, leading to a work of great intensity and beauty, given a radiant performance. 

I Am the true Vine was written for 900th anniversary of the founding of Norwich in 1996, and the music reflects the growth and changes that take place on the one vine in the text. The Woman with the Alabaster Box follows. This, a Karlstad commission again, dates from 1997, and treats verses in St Matthew where Jesus rebukes his disciples for criticising a woman who pours expensive unguents over his head. 

Dopo la Vittoria ensues, commemorating the 1600th anniversary of the death of St Ambrose, for Milan. Here, Pärt sets an Italian translation of a Russian text that describes the baptism of St Augustine by St Ambrose. The Bogoroditse Djevo concludes the disc. This was composed for the Annual Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, in 1992, and receives a rich, sonorous and lively performance. 

All the performances on this disc are excellent - luminous and intense, suiting the music perfectly. The choice of works gives a good overview of Pärt’s compositions, and St John Chrysostom Church in Ontario’s Newmarket has right degree of resonance to draw out the floating vocal lines.

Em Marshall




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