This very amply-filled CD was originally released in 2001. Nimbus's
reasons for titling it 'Arvo Pärt: the Music for Organ'
are not self-evident: the four pieces may constitute his complete
works, but Einojuhani Rautavaara's contribution is actually
longer by a few seconds, and just as impressive. Nor, for that
matter, is anyone likely to forget Henryk Górecki's Kantata
at the end of Kevin Bowyer's superb, often rollicking recital.
Although this is a disc of religious works, the music is more
hat-lifting fire-'n'-brimstone than uplifting chorale. Górecki's
Kantata op.26, for example, begins and ends as a tsunami of
dissonance in huge chords, a veritable rude awakening for those
who know only his gentle Third Symphony. Bowyer's programme
opens with Rautavaara's Toccata op.59, which is more recognisably
diatonic, but still very noisy in places. Much the same can
be said of Rautavaara's two other featured works, though Laudatio
Trinitatis contains arguably his finest organ music. The odd-looking
title Ta Tou Theou is Greek (τά τού
Θεού) for 'that which is God's', a snippet
from Jesus's famous "Render unto Caesar" speech in
the St Matthew Gospel.
Sofia Gubaidulina's Hell und Dunkel - like Rautavaara's Ta Tou
Theou and Pärt's Trivium, somewhat pretentiously intended
to be written, for no compelling reason, without capitals -
is a dramatic phantasmagoria of strange effects, not necessarily
congregation-friendly, with an ending that sounds something
like a phone left off the hook.
The works by Arvo Pärt are altogether softer, more melodic
and presumably far more likely to crop up in a church service
somewhere. Christopher Bowers-Broadbent appropriately quotes
Pärt in his notes as saying of his music: "I don't
want too many things happening." Yet for all its relative
straightforwardness, and Pärt's own religious asceticism,
his music is never dull. Indeed, it is frequently beautiful
in its simplicity of rhythms, melodies and harmonies, as in
Annum per Annum, a kind of mini-Mass for organ - which has both
an opening and an ending, by the way, in which Pärt demonstrates
very ably that he can do stained-glass-rattling loud too. Bowyer
has, incidentally, also recorded this for Naxos (8.558182/3,
Bowyer's recording of Pärt's reflective Pari Intervallo
also appears on Nimbus NI5580/1, which is a double-disc selection
of mainly modern British works for organ also played on the
excellent Marcussen organ in the Chapel of St. Augustine at
Tonbridge School in Kent.
Pari Intervallo is an emotionally intense work, but not "probably
Pärt's most beautiful composition", as Bowers-Broadbent,
who has recorded it himself, writes: there are simply too many
other works of Pärt's with a greater claim. Incidentally,
Mein Weg Hat Gipfel und Wellentäler is German for 'My Path
Has Peaks and Troughs': where Bowers-Broadbent got the dictionary
that gave a "possible translation", as he puts it,
of "my journey has great heights and wavy depths"
is anyone's guess!
In all these works, Kevin Bowyer gives yet another virtually
irreproachable performance, by this time nearing the end of
his recording contract with Nimbus that has given a grateful
posterity around 50 CDs. The discography available on his website
is three years out of date, but already 14 pages long! Bowyer's
incredible Sorabji Organ
Project is still unfurling, but its final completion promises
to be one of the greatest organ events in the history of music.
Sound and production are of the highest quality. The CD booklet
has an attractively colourful design - a far cry from Nimbus's
earlier days! The notes by organist Christopher Bowers-Broadbent
are well written, though perhaps more flowery than informative.
Curiously, the back inlay track listing is laid out differently
from the one inside the booklet, grouping the works under composer
- on the disc the playing order is mixed. There is a spelling
mistake in the German title of one of Pärt's work ('Wennentäler'
should be 'Wellentäler'), though this is corrected inside
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
see also review by Dominy