The last ten years have seen Pärt’s music
slacken its adherence to “Holy Minimalism”. This
trend was already apparent in Como cierva sedienta
and Orient & Occident
(2000). It is also much
in evidence in the works on these fairly recent works composed
between 2000 and 2006.
for chorus and orchestra sets words
from John 1: 1-14 laid-out into five separate sections of which
the central one is the most developed. The first section is rather
different from what one might have come to expect from Pärt.
It is mostly a powerfully declamatory prelude to the entire work
with many unusually dramatic orchestral gestures. The second
movement (vv.6-8) is mainly homophonic. The central section (vv.9-11)
is rather unusual in that it is one of the rare instances of
Pärt’s repeating the text. He actually does so three
times, which is quite remarkable as if to stress the meaning
of these words that he absolutely wants to convey to the listeners. “He
came unto his own, and his own received him not.” The fourth
section is a movement in slow and march-like tempo. The final
movement rounds-off the work by mirroring the opening section,
albeit in a less dramatic way.
is scored for small orchestral forces:
strings and percussion with a trumpet and a trombone mainly reserved
for the final stages. “La Sindone” or the so-called
Christ’s shroud has long been located in Turin Cathedral.
In the meantime there has been a lot of controversy about it,
but this has absolutely no relevance to Pärt’s work.
After the short emotionally charged introduction, the music begins
from scraps with a number of fragments that eventually congeal
into a long melody. The final section opens with chords in the
strings. These lead to the assertive entry of the two brass instruments
that bring the work to a powerful resonant climax,. This is followed
by a peaceful final chord in the strings.
The words for Cecilia, vergine romana
from the Latin Breviarum Romanum of Graz Seminary. These words
were read during the nocturnal canonic hour for the feast of
St. Cecilia. They tell of St. Cecilia’s martyrdom because
of her Christian beliefs. Her husband Valerian converted to Christian
faith and so did the latter’s brother. They, too, were
martyred. The Roman prefect ordered Cecilia to be burned and
later beheaded. Eventually her relics were laid to rest in the
Roman church which now bears her name. The narrative is at first
rather neutral. Only later, when coming to the murder of the
male protagonists, does the music reach some sort of climax preceding
the final section which the present annotator describes as Cecilia’s via
. This is by far the most gripping and beautiful
section of a sincere work that I personally find a bit uneven.
Still it is worth more than the occasional hearing.
Da pacem Domine
was written at the request of Jordi
Savall and is dedicated to the victims of the Madrid bombings
on 11 March 2004. It has been performed every year in Spain to
commemorate the victims of these terrorist attacks. This short
work exists in several different versions including this one
for choir and strings made in 2007.
The last two items are purely instrumental pieces for string
orchestra. Mein Weg
(“My Path” or “My
Way”) was originally composed for organ in 1989. Pärt
later arranged it for strings and percussion. That is what we
have here. It is a quite nice short piece already some way from
the so-called “Holy Minimalism” often attached to
Pärt’s music. Für Lennart in memoriam
the most recent work here, had a curious genesis, to say the
least. It was commissioned by Lennart Meri, the president of
Estonia from 1992 to 2001, shortly before his death for use at
his funeral service. This is a deeply felt elegy and quite beautiful
in its own right, and certainly one that shows how Pärt’s
music has evolved over the last years. There is a real sense
of forward moving rather than of repetition.
A quick look at the names of the performers is enough to make
clear that these performances, recorded in the composer’s
presence, have a real ring of authenticity as well as displaying
commitment and dedication to Pärt’s music. The recording
is excellent and the lavishly illustrated booklet is informative.
This superb release is yet another example of ECM’s tireless
and indefatigable championing of Pärt’s music. Long
may it continue!