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Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)
The Deer's Cry (2007) [4:10]
Von Angesicht zu Angesicht (2005) [3:57]
Alleluia-Tropus (2008/10) [3:05]
Virgencita (2012) [5:54]
Veni Creator (2006) [2:32]
Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima (2014) [1:32]
And One of the Pharisees (1992) [8:10]
Da pacem Domine (2004/06) [5:21]
Most Holy Mother of God (2003) [4:56]
Sei gelobt, du Baum (2007) [4:23]
Habitare fratres in unum (2012) [1:56]
Summa (1977) [6:02]
Gebet nach dem Kanon (1997) [10:24]
Vox Clamantis/Jaan-Eik Tulve
rec. September 2013 & 2014, Tallinn Transfiguration Church and June 2007, Dome Church of St. Nicholas of Haapsalu (Veni Creator)
ECM NEW SERIES 2466 [62:29]

Vox Clamantis has appeared on some very fine recordings, including their medieval programme for ECM records, Filia Sion (see review), and part of the Arvo Pärt birthday celebration Musica Selecta (review). This all-Pärt programme is superbly performed and recorded as ever, this time in a not too huge acoustic and with a fairly close sound, highlighting the quality of the voices and helping with comprehension of the text.

Of course we appreciate it when sung texts are included in the booklet for this kind of release, but in this case these are the main bulk of its content. There are nice photos of the composer working with the singers and musicians, but no further text to put these pieces into context. Perhaps this is indeed not so necessary, but if you are a newcomer to Pärt then some background information might have been nice.

This programme is a fine mixture of well-known works such as Da Pacem Domine and The Deer’s Cry as well as première recordings of Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima and Habitare Fratres. Of added interest is an a cappella version of Alleluia-Tropus, written especially for Vox Clamantis and previously heard from them on the Grammy Award-winning ECM recording Adam’s Lament. Basically, with so much rarely recorded material this superbly performed and produced release is a ‘must-have’ for all of Arvo Pärt’s many fans.

Starting with the most recent works, Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima is a brief piece on a text from Psalm 8.3, the Alleluia forming a rhythmically lilting ostinato over which the other words take on a folk-like character–relatively joyful in character despite being in a minor key. Habitare Fratres is from Psalm 133 and in a more sparing, orthodox religious style, the harmonies developing around just a few central notes and creating a lovely, gently ecclesiastical effect. Virgencita is more distinctively Pärt-like in its contrast between ever-evolving open intervals and thirds.

Not all of these pieces are a capella, and instrumental accompaniments provide contrast early on with the dramatic opening of Von Angesicht zu Angesicht, the trio of clarinet, viola and double bass blending with and highlighting the vocal phrases. Sei gelobt, du Baum also uses a double bass, this time accompanied by violin and lute, the latter creating a feel of ancient timelessness to add to this enigmatic and beautiful setting of a text by Viivi Luik. Veni Creator unfolds over the gentle tones of an organ.

As witnessed by photos in the booklet for this CD, these performances were prepared with the involvement of the composer. Jaan-Eik Tulve says, “Even though verticality is important in Arvo’s music, we’re also always searching for horizontality, for the legato, the smooth merger of different sounds and colors. I’ve never willfully aimed to do something wholly differently than others; rather, I strive for that which in my own eyes seems right and honest. … Arvo’s pointers are always very illuminating. He doesn’t tell you to sing one way or another; instead, he tries to guide the interpreter, by way of mental images, into the world in which, or out of which, he wants his work to be performed.” I think this aspect of the music comes through clearly in these performances, making them stand out even in works which have become familiar through numerous other recordings. Comparing The Deer’s Cry with Paul Hillier’s very fine but more earnest Harmonia Mundi recording (review) shows Vox Clamantis prepared to propel the music with greater momentum, still working those silences in the opening, but creating a convincing through-line that delivers an almost Romantic expressiveness and even more intensity at the climax, as well as an almost bluesy character to some of the close-harmony writing near the end, a section treated with careful fragility by Hillier.

With translucent sound and transcendent performances, this is another Arvo Pärt disc to add to ECM’s already essential catalogue from this composer.

Dominy Clements
 

 

 




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