Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935) Da pacem Domine
Triodion (1998) [16:10]
Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen (1988/91) [14:20 Nunc dimittis (2001) [7:45] Dopo la vittoria (1996/98) [9:20] Virgencita (2012) [8:11]
The Woman with the Alabaster Box (1997) [5:57]
Tribute to Caesar (1997) [5:31] Da pacem Domine (2004/06) [4:24]
Latvian Radio Choir/Sigvards Klava
Rec. St. John’s Church (Sv. Jāņa baznīca), Riga, Latvia, February, 2016
Texts with English translations enclosed ONDINE ODE1286-2 [72:38]
When Arvo Pärt, towards the end of the 1970s, created his own form of minimalism, he soon won admirers all over the world and for five consecutive years was the most played living composer. Today, at age 81, he is still active and creative and his music continues to fascinate. Anyone who has been caught by Pärt's personal tonal language will probably immediately recognise him and this new disc felt like an old friend – even though I don’t believe I have heard anything on it before.
The contents span a period of 24 years, the most recent work being composed in 2012. Triodion from 1998 was commissioned from Lancing College for its 150th anniversary. Benjamin Britten, whom Pärt never met but felt affinity for, had written his cantata St Nicolas for the 100th anniversary, and of the three odes that are included in Triodion one is a prayer to “Holy Saint Nicholas”. Thus there is a connection with Britten. As is well-known Pärt wrote his Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten in 1976. In the introduction and in the coda we hear a solo soprano. The music is both strong and intimate – and extremely beautiful.
The Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen are the oldest music on this disc. They were composed 1988/91, when Pärt was living in Berlin, and the text is in German, since the work was written for the RIAS Chamber Choir, which was based in Berlin. It is deeply affecting.
Nunc dimittis was written for the Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, where it was premiered in 2001 as part of the Edinburgh Festival. There is something of the Orthodox vocal tradition about the work with the low bass parts.
When Arvo Pärt was commissioned by the City of Milan’s Cultural Department to write something for the 1600th anniversary of the death of St Ambrose it took him six years to find a suitable text. He tried the saint’s hymns but inspiration never turned up. In the end he decided to write a new Te Deum - Ambrose is supposed to be the one who created the Te Deum text - and combine it with the story of Ambrose. The composition is unusual in a couple of ways. It is one his few choral works written in a major key, and it has a lively opening, which returns in the end.
Virgencita from 2012 is one of only two settings of a Spanish text. It was inspired by the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which appeared a decade after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The Guadalupe Virgin in the Basilica of Our Lady in Mexico City has become the world’s most-visited Marian shrine. The opening of Virgencita has been likened to a very slow tango. From that opening it grows in intensity to a dramatic climax, only to fade away in the end.
The Woman with the Alabaster Box and Tribute to Caesar were composed for the 350th anniversary of the Karlstad Diocese in Sweden in 1997. The texts are from the Gospel of St Matthew in English translations.
Da pacem Domine was commissioned by Jordi Savall for a peace concert in Barcelona on 1 July 2004. Pärt started working two days after the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004 and it has been performed every year in Spain to commemorate the victims. This is Arvo Pärt at his most hypnotic.
A lot of the above information comes from the excellent liner-notes by Dominic Wells.
The Latvian Radio Choir is marvellous throughout. I can’t imagine this music better sung. All admirers of Arvo Pärt’s choral music are advised to invest in this disc without delay.