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Rob Wendt
I Care If You Listen, May 2012

Pärt Piano Music by Naxos features pianist Ralph van Raat interpreting the Estonian composer’s music spanning over four decades. This retrospective takes us on a stylistic journey that is truly millennial in scope, while remaining reverent in spirit.

Ralph van Raat plays the allegro passages with a digital precision characteristic of post-war piano music. He imbues the largo passages…with a touching impressionistic quality.

[In] The movements the Partita, Op. 2…the musical language is decidedly modern…making full use of pitch material while not being constricted by serial techniques. The third movement is a study of chords, growing in complexity and dynamics and adhering to a touching…

The guileless simplicity of these diatonic tone-studies enables a very close identification between composer, performer, instrument, and audience, the very essence of effective music.

Van Raat is joined here by JoAnn Falletta leading the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, and I was struck by the similarity between this piano-orchestra pairing and that of other eastern European composers. As Ralph van Raat points out in the liner notes, Pärt believed that the essence of truth “is translated in music by the connection and silence between just two notes.” In these hesitant and vulnerable moments, the orchestra intones the very essence of sorrowful resignation, while the piano dutifully spins out a liturgy of mourning. This is all done not with long, balanced musical phrases or distinct melodic contour, but just a micro-focus on the event of one note being replaced by another in the most unhurried fashion. Lamentabile holds perhaps one of the most arresting English horn solos I have ever heard, fragments of middle-eastern scales appearing and disappearing over an ominous pedal; there is no resolution, but there is no urge, only the last utterances before life is extinguished and returned to the infinite.

There are many contemporary composers who receive coveted commissions, only to see their creations shelved after one performance. Arvo Pärt is that rare living artist who has managed to penetrate the finicky audiences of today and present them with something unmistakably universal. © 2012 I Care If You Listen Read complete review

Leslie Wright
MusicWeb International, February 2012

The Partita goes further in its use of atonality and at times is reminiscent of the piano music of Bartók and Ligeti…these are the most interesting and virtuosic of the pieces on the CD…they have a quality of the ancient and modern that is uniquely Pärt’s…I was impressed by Ralph van Raat’s pianism on an earlier disc of John Adams’s piano music and am equally taken with it here. He has a fine, light touch and judicious use of the sustaining pedal, so that the notes, which are meant to reverberate, do so without being overdone.

This new Naxos disc gives a good impression of the evolution of Arvo Pärt’s style from his student days to the present… © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

MusicWeb International, January 2012

Listener-friendly, tonal, atmospheric, introspective: this magical work is a pan-temporal filmic-Lisztian hybrid of expansive, elegiac soundscapes that often approach stasis. What sets Pärt apart from other ‘minimalists’ is that he has the genius to create beauty, drama and variety out of very little apparent material—his music almost always evokes a sense of depth, even if the words Pärt uses to write about it are often vacantly New Age.

As a pianist…van Raat is generally immaculate. He has recorded several CDs for Naxos over the last three or four years, specialising in contemporary music. In each case van Raat’s pianism was the recipient of enthusiastic thumbs-ups. Here he gives another fine performance characterised by expressive, dexterous and highly polished proportions.

Sound quality too is good. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Anne Midgette
The Washington Post, December 2011

Anne Midgette’s best classical music of 2011

Arvo Part is beloved for his shimmering, static compositions; but his work for solo piano is neither static nor well known. The Dutch pianist van Raat changes that with a five-decade survey of the Part you didn’t know, from baroque-influenced sonatinas of 1959 to an exquisite tonal miniature from 2006, and including a ponderous concerto led by JoAnn Falletta. © 2011 The Washington Post See complete list

Pwyll ap SiƓn
Gramophone, December 2011

Lamentate saves the day with its delicate droplets of sound and spiritual minimalist ambience…Van Raat’s playing is convincing throughout …

To read the complete review, please visit Gramophone online.

Barry Witherden
BBC Music Magazine, November 2011

This is a well conceived crash-course in significant moment in the development of Pärt’s music. The best-known piece included is Für Alina. The others will be refreshingly unfamiliar to most people (indeed, the perky miniature Für Anna Maria is a première recording) and Ralph van Raat plays with both sensitivity and verve., October 2011

…all this solo piano music is very well played by Ralph van Raat. He also does a very fine job in the longest and most substantial work on the CD, a 2002 piece for piano and orchestra called Lamentate: Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture “Marsyas.” Effectively orchestrated and very well played by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic under JoAnn Falletta…

Stephen Eddins, October 2011

This would not be the right album for listeners looking primarily for Pärt’s legendary austere simplicity, but it would be ideal for anyone already familiar with the composer looking for exposure to the broad stylistic and expressive range of which he is capable. Van Raat, a champion of new music, plays with sensitivity and appropriate simplicity in the later works and has no trouble making the virtuosic Sonatinas sparkle. JoAnn Faletta expertly leads Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic in the spare accompaniment in Lamentate. Naxos’ sound is clean, present, and realistic.

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, October 2011

It can be big, stern music with huge, imposing gestures and, at the same time, enormously respectful of silence and pianissimos. What this disc does that’s most impressive— and unusual—is that it gives you on one disc an adequate sense of the length and breadth of Pärt’s career… Van Raat is superb here, and Falletta is rather stunningly attentive to give the music sculptural solidity in space.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2011

The music of the Estonian composer, Arvo Part, is an acquired taste that already has many addicted to his simplistic style of writing. Though he did pass through a period when he became a servant of atonal serialism, it has been his highly personalised voice and hypnotic effect of slow moving music that has gained worldwide acclaim. The present disc spans much of his career, the most extended score, Lamentate, completed in 2002 and is in homage to Anish Kapoor and his huge sculpture, Marsyas, commissioned by London’s Tate Modern. It is a subject that allows Part to reflect on his interest in death. Often moving at a pulse that comes close to static, and so simple that a beginner could play the piano part, it is a score of meditation interrupted by agonized outbursts that can be interpreted as the pain of death. In ten linked sections, the piano is either a solo voice or an additional instrument to an orchestral part in long drawn-out passages mixing sadness and beauty. From the outset Part offered a new and totally personal view of melody and musical content, the disc opening with the piano Sonatinas from 1958, works that launched his international presence while he was still a student at the Tallinn Conservatory. They speak of one seeking to communicate as economically as possible, styles impinging on one another as if in recollection of the music of others he had already heard. The Partita comes from the following year, with six short Variations leading to two cameos Fur Alina and Fur Anna Maria. Ralph van Raat’s technical credentials are seldom tested, but he has the ability to retain our interest when so little is happening. The Netherland’s orchestra does all that is required.

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