David's Review Corner
, May 2008
This three disc boxed set brings together the major output from one of the most significant musical voices in the second half of the 20th century.
Born in Estonia in 1935, Arvo Part’s early scores were strongly influenced by Russian music, with Shostakovich as the dominant source. Thirty-five years ago his style underwent a total change, and he began to embrace the music created in Gregorian chant. That fell into line with the growth of minimalism, the short melodic and rhythmic patterns repeated to form a more extensive passage. It was in his choral work Passo (St. John Passion) writtenin 1982that he captured major international attention, the narrative style mixing Stravinsky and Schutz to fashion a work of substantial length. That continues in the Berliner Messe completed in 1992, one of his most important scores that has already appeared in three different guises, the one here scored for choral group accompanied by a small string ensemble and organ. It’s intentional lack of complexity provides the currently fashionable haunting quality. The first of the three discs concentrates on his chamber music, and in particular the group of works titled, Fratres, a series that explores sonorities often slow moving. Add to this a number of smaller pieces including the moving Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten and two versions of Summa - one for strings and the other for chorus, and you have an ideal sampler of this iconic composer. A number of performers are involved from Canada, Hungary and the UK, each of the three discs being well received by the critics when first released. My own review picked out the excellent vocal group Tonus Peregrinus in their fine account of Passo. The recorded sound is admirable throughout, and as a special offer of three discs for the price of two, this is a real snip.