Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

ARVO PÄRT (b.1935) Fratres (1977, 1992) 9:43 * Tabula Rasa (1977) 23:07 ** Symphony No. 3 (1971) 25:17  Gil Shaham (violin) * ** Roger Carlsson (percussion) * Adele Anthony (violin) ** Erik Risberg (prepared piano) ** Gothenburg SO/Neeme Järvi DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 457 647-2 [58:29]




From the perspective of someone who knew the LP era, the success of Arvo Pärt would have seemed unaccountable. Now we have a composer from a Baltic state with a whole CD (not exactly filled to overflowing, it is true, but still a whole CD) devoted to his music.

Pärt is clearly an advocate of the return of lyricism via the minimalists. Trace elements of minimalism are there to behold (or be-hear) in the first two works. They provide an easy key into the affections. Mixed with the insistent is the lyric and with the lyric the sinews and barbs of Shostakovich's scorched earth.

Both Fratres and Tabula were cult hits on 'minor' labels years ago and have made their way in the performing world. The running spiccato of Fratres is mixed with a rubicund cantilena worthy of Vivaldi or Corelli, all suffused with a violent black-blooded vitality. The music has an insistent power and the piercing string writing harks back to Sibelius Symphony No. 7 and further still to Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia. It also reminded me of the string writing on the recent Peteris Vasks disc.

Tabula Rasa is a longer piece at 23:07 and is in two tracks. Cold trumpet calls are evoked through the violin solos flashing and flickering like some Vivaldi concerto cut loose in time. The gamelan of the prepared piano reminds us of John Cage. The Holst Fugal Overture and the RVW Tallis Fantasia are also a presence as is RVW's Lark Ascending heard as if through a light -intensifying prism. Gil Shaham's violin is of pristine tone blessedly lacking vibrato and letting the music speak with coursing life. Tippett's Triple Concerto and Corelli Fantasia are also present in acid-sweet skimming lyricism and a sweet doom suggestive of the Britten Cantus.

The comparatively oblique opacity of the Third Symphony is chamfered by the influence of Russian orthodox chant. The mystical first section of Rimsky's Russian Easter Festival Overture is a voice among many others including Hovhaness's grand heaven-striding string anthems. Dies Irae shambles through the pages alongside Sibelian high strings and the shouted glories of the horns. Shostakovich's mordant attack and a warm consoling melancholy are presented with snowy fire amid the restless coal-dark shadows of Father winter.

Design values are high although veering towards the trendy which in this case means let's throw out the old jewel box container and use a multi-fold card sleeve. No matter that its shelf life will be much shorter and its fragility will make it a rather scuffed and torn victim in ten years time.

In summary: Good as a disc but not desperately well-filled. Reasonable notes. A sensitively (very) long break between the end of Tabula and start of the Symphony marks out a disc in which some musical thought has been invested.

It would however be churlish to be anything other than welcoming to what is a most arresting release and one which I trust will have successors from this stable. © Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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