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Peter Quantrill
Gramophone, December 2009

A comprehensive and lovingly made documentary: the man, his performers and lots of his music.

Paul Griffiths
The New York Times, May 2006

Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times, October 2005

Among the new CD releases are three compilations that offer good introductions to Pärt, who started out as a dissident 12-tone composer in Soviet-controlled Estonia but had a breakthrough in the mid-'70s when he converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and discovered a stunning consonant chord. He played the chord on the piano, and it rang like the carillon of a grand cathedral. He called the style "tintinnabuli," from the Latin word for "bells." He wrote a small piano piece, "For Alina," based upon it, and the act of composing served as a rite of absolution.

"For Alina" is simple, if unforgettably original, music. An outstanding performance of it by Alexei Lubimov begins the Naxos two-CD "Portrait" of Pärt, which includes a wide selection of excerpts from his oeuvre along with a handy 78-page booklet introducing him and his music. . . . you will discover a composer who keeps trying to get inside the timbres of instruments, of voices and of the texts that he sets.

Ultimately, Pärt is not so much simple as deep. He revisits techniques of Gregorian chant and early polyphony, but he also displays an up-to-date Cagean sense of letting sounds be. He even has a fondness for Cage's prepared piano. Nor is he all that mellow. Look out for violent, jarring contrasts.

Part of the Pärt mystique is his monk-like persona. He is not known to be much of a public figure. But in the film "24 Preludes for a Fugue," we find, as with everything else about the composer, that nothing is quite as simple as it seems. A Russian filmmaker, Dorian Supin, followed him around with a camera for five years. In snippets broken up by a more formal interview, the film peeks into Pärt's life.

It offers little in the way of explanation of this shy, gentle man, with his bushy beard and saintly demeanor, who reveals a sly sense of humor and a very good fashion sense. His pleasures appear basic but just a little off. In one scene, he visits Estonia for the first time in many years (he moved to Germany in the early '80s) and munches contentedly on a tomato with sugar, much to his wife's disapproval. But watch him in action as a musician and you understand that he knows exactly what he wants and how to get it.

From page to performance

Included on the Ideale Audience DVD (one in a new series of composer films that also includes Luciano Berio, Philip Glass, Stravinsky and Mahler) are three additional short films. There is a priceless eavesdropping on conductor Myung-Whun Chung preparing the first performance of a new Pärt work in Rome amid the chaos of working with Italian musicians. Between players who don't listen and coping with continual new suggestions from the composer, Chung looks ready to shoot someone. Pärt says the performers are not together. Chung wrings his hands. He's told them that three times, and all they do is get louder. In the end, the performance is heavenly.

The other films are of a very different but equally riveting choral rehearsal in Iceland and of a concert performance in Tallinn, Estonia.

As the films imply, this tender man has a steely resolve. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, but it is, when for the end credits of "24 Preludes" Supin displays a series of pictures of Pärt in his youth, and we see an athletic, sociable young man with the chiseled good looks of a matinee idol.

Jeremy Eichler
The New York Times, October 2005

Circulation: 1,600,000

And now we may add to this list the documentary film "Arvo Pärt: 24 Preludes for a Fugue," on a DVD from Idéale Audience International, directed by Dorian Supin and distributed by Naxos. . . a fragmentary, impressionistic portrait composed of many vignettes, more in the vein of François Girard's "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould." Still, a clear picture emerges of a gentle yet serious man. Mr. Pärt exerts a quiet charisma and cuts a striking figure on screen with his long face, his watchful eyes and his somber yet wildly thick beard.

Bradley Bambarger
Newark Star-Ledger, October 2005

There are now myriad new and archival performances of classical music on DVD, with opera especially flowering in the format. But the best documentary films provide an ideal way to enter deeper into the art -- and thus to get more out of subsequent concert and CD experiences.

Alan Artner
Chicago Tribune, September 2005

In honor of Arvo Part's 70th birthday this month, Ideale Audience has released the first authorized documentary, assembled (in 2002) by a trusted friend who filmed over a period of five years. The approach is rather like Francois Gerard's 1993 "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould," insofar as a portrait is eventually created through a number of brief fragments. This time, however, there are no strands of narrative, actors or interviewees. The enigmatic Estonian composer--who does not give interviews--is simply shown at home and at work with various performers, occasionally also reminiscing. Nothing of great moment occurs in any of the vignettes, yet each reveals something of Part's turn of mind, which illuminates his haunting, inimitable music. Because of the music, he has been called a mystic and this reportedly has amused him. Here his humor is as evident as his concentration and the picture is of a child/man possessed by music, though not desiring to create anything like what came before him. He speaks of that condition softly, sometimes with a choice of words appropriate to parables. The snatches of his scores, which rarely are absent from the soundtrack, indicate that no other composer today is capable of such heart-easing simplicity. Three shorter films by Supin -- in essence, outtakes from the documentary -- swell the program to 178 minutes, all recommendable for anyone interested in approaching one of the most generous creative spirits of our time.

Joseph McLellan
The Washington Post, September 2005

Hector Berlioz's Les Troyens was the longest, grandest and most impressive opera in the world before Richard Wagner found his natural style and started turning out enormous epics. It tells the story of the fall of Troy after a 10-year siege by Greek armies under the command of Agamemnon. It is not easy to perform and long suffered neglect for that reason but has just been issued in a fine new recording from the BBC, preserving a production by the Chatelet Theatre in Paris: Hector Berlioz: Les Troyens (Opus Arte, 3 DVDs).

In the version of the story followed by Berlioz (who got it from Virgil), a party of Trojans managed to escape before the Greeks tricked their way to victory and slaughtered or enslaved all the people in the city. Under a mandate of the gods to sail to Italy and found the city of Rome, a party of Trojans under Prince Aeneas sailed first to Carthage, where Aeneas met and fell in love with Queen Dido, helped her to beat an invading enemy army and nearly abandoned his ambition to establish a new Troy in Italy. He is visited by the spirits of relatives who died in the fall of Troy and told he must continue his voyage immediately.

He cannot disobey. His parting from Dido is agonizing; she does everything she can to keep him from going. After he departs and she goes through extremes of grief and anger, she finally decides on suicide. She picks a particularly painful way to die, on a funeral pyre that can be seen from the fleeing Trojan ships, if anyone cares to look.

The music is equal to the libretto, which Berlioz also wrote - military music, ceremonial music, love music of deep tenderness and heart- wrenching elegiac music. The cast relates to it intensely, notably Susan Graham as Dido, Gregory Kunde as Aeneas, and Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cassandra. Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads his Monteverdi Choir, the Chatelet Theatre Chorus and the Orchestra Revolutionnaire et Romantique in an expertly paced and balanced perormance.

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut (TDK DVD): This is a high-powered production

Tim Pfaff
Bay Area Reporter, September 2005

A superb film by Dorian Supin, Arvo Part: 24 Preludes for a Fugue (Juxtapositions), is a fascinating introduction to the man, the music and their fundamental inseparability. . . .

Supin's film is comprised of 29 short sequences focusing on Part, reflecting in his often-oblique way on a range of issues in English and (subtitled) German and Estonian. It turns out to be an ideal way to portray this most nonlinear of musical personalities. The picture of the man that emerges is of someone with music in his bone marrow. If a single image captures the wonder of it all, it's when Part, with his walnut face, waterfall beard, and wet-eyed gaze (listening with laser-like attention to soprano Patricia Rosario raptly singing a phrase from his Como Cierva Sequentia) lets his mouth fall open just as Rosario's closes, as knocked-back as we are by the beauty of both the music and her singing.

A full, live performance of the 36-minute work is one of several major bonus tracks on this thoroughly compelling DVD, which includes portions of a rehearsal of Cecilia, with a manifestly frustrated Myung-Whun Chung conducting the unruly, nearly intractable Orchestra e Coro dell' Accademia Nazionale di Sante Cecilia. The glimpse into the quiet authority of the composer, on hand for the proceedings, shows the tough nut Part is known to be.

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1:07:48 AM, 31 August 2015
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