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Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Magnificat (1989) [6:17]
Nunc dimittis (2001) [7:15]
Seven Magnificat Antiphons (1988-1991):
No.1. O Weisheit [1:04]
No.2. O Adonai [2:03]
No.3. O Spross [0:56]
No.4. O Schlüssel [1:41]
No.5. O Morgenstern [1:40]
No.6. O König [1:29]
No.7. O Immanuel [2:24]
Stabat Mater (1985) [25:11]
Le Nuove Musiche/Krijn Koetsveld
rec. February 2008, Mijnsheerenland, Netherlands; October 2016, St Martinuskerk, Hoogland, Netherlands (Stabat Mater).
Texts not included.

Pierre JALBERT (b.1967)
Violin Concerto (2017) [26:22]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto No.1 in a minor, BWV1041 [13:25]
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Fratres (Version for violin, string orchestra and percussion) (1977/92) [10:29]
Pēteris VASKS (b.1946)
Lonely Angel (Vientuļais Eņģelis) (1992/2006) [13:23]
Margaret Batjer (violin)
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra/Jeffrey Kahane
rec. live 17 March 2018, Alex Theater, Glendale, California and 18 March 2018, Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, California (Jalbert); 15 September 2018, Zipper Hall, Colburn School of Music, Los Angeles, California (other works) DDD/DSD
Reviewed as 24/48 download with pdf booklet from
BIS BIS-2309 SACD [63:41]

Brilliant: Arvo Pärt’s many followers – of which I am one – will know exactly what to expect here. It’s no accident that the music is directed by Krijn Koetsveld whom we have encountered on earlier Brilliant Classics recordings of baroque music: after earlier experimentation with serialism, tradition has been an important element in Pärt’s compositional technique alongside his own very personal style.

This new recording comes at budget price, as little as £6.19, and the performances do justice to the music, but I would recommend paying a little more for the Gimell CD on which The Tallis Scholars step away from their usual turf to give splendid performances of Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and the Advent Antiphons, with Triodion and other works (Tintinnabuli, CDGIM049 – review). As downloaded in lossless sound from, with pdf booklet, that Gimell album costs £7.99, a few pence more than the Brilliant Classics, though 24/96 is rather steep at £15 and 24/192 at £18.

This recording of the Stabat Mater has already appeared in a 14-CD Brilliant box of setting of that work (95370, around £37), good value, but the outstanding bargain is the 3-CD Harmonia Mundi set which contains all the music on the single Brilliant CD and much more besides in performances by Paul Hillier with Theatre of Voices or the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Ars Nova Copenhagen, and the NYYD Quartet (HMX2908730.32, around £13 – review).

Some sloppy proof-reading – yes, I’ve been guilty of that, too – in the booklet and on the Brilliant Classics website turns the Key of David (Schlüssel) into his bowl or dish (Schüssel).

Qobuz are asking £10.79 for the download, which prompts me, as so often, to wonder where is the logic in asking more than half as much again as the price of the CD.

Just as I was about to wrap up the review of the Brilliant CD, BIS released the album which includes the violin and orchestra version of Fratres. Like several of his compositions, the work – originally composed for string quartet and wind quintet – comes in a variety of formats, six of them included on a Naxos CD with what I consider his most important work, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten (8.553750). if you are a completist, a Telarc recording goes one better, with seven versions plus Summa, Festina lente and Cantus (CD80387).

The new BIS recording is not for Pärt completists, with its distinctly odd coupling of Fratres with works for violin and orchestra by Pierre Jalbert, JS Bach and Pēteris Vasks. Nor is it for lovers of Bach, who will surely want his one- and two-violin concertos together, or for Vasks cognoscenti, though there is only one other version of his Lonely Angel, also coupled with Fratres, from Fenella Humphreys, the Covent Garden Sinfonia and Ben Palmer (with Max Richter: The Four Seasons recomposed, Rubicon RCD1015).

The real oddity here is the Bach concerto which receives a decent recording but hardly good enough to match one of the most recent, from Isabelle Faust with the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin (Harmonia Mundi HMM902335/36, 2 CDs for the price of one – review). Surely any lover of Bach will want at least a single-CD collection of his violin concertos, but Faust and her team go one better.

I found the recording of the violin, orchestra and percussion version of Fratres, directed by Risto Joost on Globe GLO5252 as hypnotic as any of Pärt’s music – review) Perhaps I’ve heard it a few times too many since then, but either the magic has worn off a little for me, or this recording doesn’t sound quite as hypnotic. That outstanding release – the judgement of another reviewer who enjoyed it as much as I did – is now download only, but beginners and established collectors alike should find it an excellent anthology of Pärt’s music.

The Vasks work which ends the new BIS CD I did find hauntingly beautiful, which didn’t surprise me because that’s the effect of most of Vasks’ music. I’m not sure, however, that I can recommend the whole SACD for this work and the Jalbert concerto which opens proceedings. Which brings me back to Pierre Jalbert. He’s the composer in residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, so their performance, recorded live, can presumably be taken as ‘authentic’.

Jonathan Woolf, reviewing a Gasparo recording of Jalbert’s chamber music, writes of its ‘pleading intimacy [and] prayerful intensity’ and that’s an apt description of the concerto, though there’s less of the drama that JW also mentions. Even the second of the two movements, marked ‘with great energy’ begins in quiet mode and even after that, the energy is more lively than dramatic.

The concerto didn’t grab me, as some new music does, and it certainly didn’t put me off, as too many contemporary compositions do. It makes a fine introduction to the overall mood of this album of mainly contemplative music. If that sounds as if I’m writing it off, that’s not the case, but I think that I shall have to work a little harder to absorb it. I think, too, that answers my question: I would consider it worth obtaining this SACD or download for the sake of the Jalbert and the ethereal Vasks.

As usual, are offering this recording in 24/48 sound – stereo or surround – for the same price as 16-bit initially, in this case $9.55. It’s well worth going for 24-bit, which offers the same quality as the hi-res layers of the SACD. The price range for the disc seems even wider than usual, from £12.75 to an improbable £21.11.

The Brilliant Classics CD is very good value and well worth considering, but bear in mind my preference for the Tallis Scholars on Gimell. The BIS offers a strange melange of composers and styles, but is well worth obtaining for the Jalbert and Vasks.

Brian Wilson

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