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Jeremy Eichler
The New York Times, October 2005

"Finding your way through Mr. Pärt's discography is no small task. For a one-stop overview, the most inclusive and affordable option is a new two-disc sampler from Naxos, "Arvo Pärt: A Portrait." It features both the impish avant-gardist Pärt and the meditative tintinnabuli Pärt, but be forewarned that these halves of his career do not sit easily together. (Mr. Pärt himself once cautioned against programming them in the same concert.)"

Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times, October 2005

"An outstanding performance of "For Alina" 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."

Bradley Bambarger
Newark Star-Ledger, September 2005

This absorbing, two-CD anthology combines quality performances of key Pärt instrumental, chamber, choral and orchestral works from the Naxos, BIS and Nimbus catalogs. The set also comes with a booklet featuring rare photos and a 64-page biographical essay. Featuring such iconic pieces as "Fratres" and "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten" in their entirety, this anthology also excerpts major works, including "Berlin Mass" and "Passio." There are also relative rarities, including the piano miniature "Für Alina" and strange organ work "Annum per Annum." There are also examples of Pärt's early, thornier idiom, such as the First Symphony (conducted by Neeme Järvi). In some cases, there are more atmospheric or intense performances available -- as in the original ECM recordings of the major works -- but Pärt tends to bring out the best in a wide range of performers. Certainly, there is no more contextual way of getting to know the composer than this generous collection, and it only costs about $15.

Classic FM, September 2005

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Gramophone, August 2005

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Peter G. Davis
New York Magazine, June 2005

The future of today’s singers is clearly on DVD, and New Yorkers who think the world begins and ends at the Metropolitan might benefit from a quick tour through Europe, where stage productions are often far more risk-taking. One stop should be at the Théâtre du Châtelet, where Berlioz’s gigantic Les Troyens (five hours, on BBC/Opus Arte) received its first complete performances in Paris a mere 200 years after the composer’s birth. Susan Graham (Dido) and Anna Caterina Antonacci (Cassandra) head the cast, both mesmerizing under John Eliot Gardiner’s inspired musical direction. Meanwhile, across town at the Opéra National de Paris, director Robert Carsen takes a minimalist view of Dvorák’s Rusalka (on TDK), a stark staging that treats this woodsy fairy-tale opera as a tragic, up-to-date film noir. It’s a reminder that even the most famous singers must adapt as they travel: Renée Fleming is asked to portray a nymph in a harsh modern setting rather than the otherworldly creature she presents in the Met’s more traditional, romantic staging. . . . Connoisseurs of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle can now choose from the Met’s old-fashioned storybook kitsch (Deutsche Grammophon), Patrice Chéreau’s absorbing industrial-age vision from Bayreuth (Philips), or a new deconstructionist interpretation from the Staatsoper in Stuttgart (TDK). I’m partial to the last of those, in part because it takes me back to the city where I studied as a lad, and partly because the approach is so off-the-wall. Each opera is staged by a different director, but there is still a crazy sort of continuity here, of the “Ring” viewed as a supersize family soap opera—Das Rheingold takes place in a tacky McMansion, and instead of triumphantly entering Valhalla at the end, the gods solemnly march down into the cellar. Viewers who find this offensive can always turn off the picture and listen to a surprisingly strong cast of Wagnerians. Videos dating back further than twenty years are sparse, but there are a few treasures from the distant past. One is an Ariadne auf Naxos from the 1965 Salzburg Festival (TDK), authoritatively conducted by Karl Böhm and preserving the luminous Composer of Sena Jurinac. Another gem is a delightful Falstaff from the 1976 Glyndebourne Festival (Arthaus Musik), enshrining the late Donald Gramm’s lovable impersonation of the fat knight. Rarities already abound, such as the first revival in 160 years of Antonio Salieri’s sumptuous Tarare (Arthaus Musik).

Clarke Bustard
Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 2005

To relive a moment of radical change in real time, to see the change registering in the facial expressions and gestures of witnesses, is dramatically compelling. On this level of storytelling, Dear and director Simon Cellan Jones are greatly assisted by a cast of English actors who have mastered the art of self-contained emoting and the small but significant gesture. . . . Dear's script places the creation of this music within its historical context -- Napoleon Bonaparte's ongoing campaigns of conquest, challenging the old order of European aristocracy -- through conversational asides. . . . . . . The film's emotional impact jolts the viewer in much the same way that the music jolted its first hearers.

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, June 2005

. . . without this two-disc set it is hard, if not impossible, to get any sense of the totality of his music, from collages of sometimes ear-blasting aleatoric fragments (hear the Maestoso opening of "Pro et Contra for Cello and Orchestra") to the haunting New Medievalism of the many instrumental versions of "Fratres." At the same time, there is no musty academicism about this portrait of one of the greatest working composers of our era. The accompanying 78-page booklet is clear, well-written and thorough about every stage of Part's surprisingly variegated artistic life. From the system-bucking Soviet serialist of the early '60s to the large choral works which seem to be the most recent to reach us across the ocean, the composer presented on this two-disc portrait is, it's fair to say, utterly different in totality than anything listeners expect. . . . An immensely valuable contribution to an important disc series.

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