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Ralph van Raat and JoAnn Falletta Record Music by Pärt and Tavener for Naxos

April 16, 2010

Between 2–6 February 2010, the acclaimed Dutch-born American-based pianist and musicologist Ralph van Raat joined the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta in Studio MCO 1, Muziekcentrum van de Omroep, Hilversum, to record PÄRT Lamentate for Piano and Orchestra (Naxos 8.572525) and TAVENER Pratirùpa for Piano and Orchestra (Naxos 8.572526)

‘I had the privilege of recording two wonderful works for piano and orchestra; Lamentate by Arvo Pärt, and Pratirùpa by Sir John Tavener. It was my first time to work with American conductor JoAnn Falletta

Lamentate is an amazingly striking work, as it combines elements of the early dissonant style of Pärt with his later ‘tintinnabuli’ style—silences, bell-like sounds, melancholic, spiritual and mostly consonant. It seems as if Pärt is looking back and integrating all the stylistic elements he has ever tried in one single work. As such, the work moves me very much; the (at times) clashing harmonies form a terrifying contrast with the meditative harmonies of the piano, all embellished with the finest of orchestrations ever done.

‘In preparation for playing and recording the piece, I worked with Mr. Pärt in his home in Tallinn, Estonia. This visit was as impressive to me as his actual music: he is not only a very dedicated and thoughtful person, but at least as much a warm and caring man. Calling me several times on the day of our appointment, worried whether I could find his place, he had even prepared cakes and tea when I arrived. While working with him, laughter was alternated with deep concern about the notes—and openness for new ideas about them. It deepened my connection with the man and his work.

‘Back in The Netherlands, the recording sessions went very well. The orchestra members were quickly captivated and amazed by the beauty of the music. We had one morning to rehearse the work, followed by two mornings of recording. Thanks to the wonderful skills and commitment of both JoAnn and Tim Handley (the producer), and of course the orchestra, we only needed one morning before it was all done.

Pratirùpa by Sir John Tavener exists in versions for piano solo and for piano and string orchestra. I had already recorded the solo version for Naxos (TAVENER Piano Works 8.570442), so it was an attractive task to now record the version with the string orchestra. Sir John was very happy with this idea—we worked together intensely for the preparation of the piano solo disc, and the version of Pratirùpa for piano and strings would become another première recording. Also Sir John’s personality is easily heard in this work—it contains, in my opinion, some of the most lyrical and warm passages written for piano in the last decades. The goal of the composer was, in fact, to represent music which reflects the most beautiful in a person (Pratirùpa means reflection). During my stay in Southern England, where Sir John lives, we not only worked together, but also dined and made a long walk together in the beautiful natural setting. I think the combination of a personality with such an intense sensitivity and an impressive landscape to live in, readily explains where this composition has its origins.

‘The recording of this work was as pleasant as that for Pärt’s Lamentate. We had one afternoon to rehearse it, followed by two sessions to record it. However, again we only needed to record one intense session before Tim announced the recording of the piece complete.

‘In the twentieth century, it seems very common for many composers to write percussively for the piano. The recording of the two works, which Naxos and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra made possible, shows that the art of intense melodic writing—even for a percussive instrument by nature, such as the piano—is not lost. In these difficult times, both from an economic and social point of view, it is hopeful and positive that there are still institutions, such as Naxos and the orchestra, which support the creation and distribution of the greatest art. At the same time, it is heart-warming to know that in a digitalised age, composers are still searching for the core of life: inner beauty.’ – Ralph van Raat

photo from the Netherlands recording session
L–R: JoAnn Falletta, conductor • Tim Handley, producer • Ralph van Raat, pianist
Nadia Wizjenbeek, orchestra concertmaster

Grammy® Award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta has noted: ‘Studio 1 at the Netherlands Radio Orchestra in Hilversum became a zen-like environment during the recording sessions of these two intensely spiritual piano concertos.

‘Both pieces shine with elements of Eastern mysticism, and Mr. van Raat played with a depth of musicality and a profoundly beautiful sound that conveyed the deeply personal religious connection of the composers. The concertos are simultaneously searching and tranquil, introverted and filled with jubilance. Tavener’s Pratirùpa refers to the pupil of the eye as the window to the essence of the person, and the music illustrates a cosmic life force and a divine joy. Pärt’s concerto is more tumultuous and depicts the struggle of life, and death as the vessel to eternity.

‘This was the first collaboration for me with the Netherlands Orchestra, and the first time Ralph and I had worked together. Superb engineer Tim Handley was the producer. It was altogether a wonderful musical experience—a conductor and soloist in sync with each other’s interpretation, a engineer with a keen ear and sense of structure, and a marvellous orchestra. The Naxos recording of the Tavener’s Pratirùpa will be a world première recording.’


Ralph van Raat Biography & Discography

JoAnn Falletta Biography & Discography

Arvo Pärt Biography & Discography

John Tavener Biography & Discography


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