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Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)
Arvo Pärt Live
Collage über B-A-C-H for strings, oboe, harpsichord and piano (1964) [7:16]
Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen for mixed choir a cappella (1988/1991) [11:48]
Cecilia, vergine romana for mixed choir and orchestra (2000/2002) [20:23]
Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell (1977/1980) [7:42]
Litany. Prayers of St John Chrysostom for Each Hour of the Day and Night for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra (1994/1996) [23:09]
The Hilliard Ensemble
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Robert King, Peter Dijkstra, Ulf Schirmer, Marcello Viotti
rec. live 2000-11, Munich, Germany
No sung texts
BR KLASSIK 900319 [70:08]

This new BR-Klassik release contains recordings of five works from the pen of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, mainly mature examples of his highly distinctive style. Led by four different directors, over a period of eleven years, all the works were recorded live in Munich churches for radio broadcast.

Marking Pärt’s 80th anniversary in 2015, the BR Klassik label has already had success with a stunning release featuring the Te Deum and Berliner Messe with Peter Dijkstra directing the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Münchner Rundfunkorchester. Also BR Klassik Dijkstra has recorded another outstanding album with the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks a collection of unaccompanied choral works featuring Schnittke’s Konzert für Chor that also includes Pärt’s little cantata Dopo la vittoria.

Emerging in the late 1960s, Pärt is renowned for composing accessible sacred music of a meditative character that can communicate episodes of deep spirituality. Prior to his emigration in 1980 from the Soviet Union, Pärt had already developed a compositional technique that he termed tintinnabuli (after tintinnabulum, the Latin for bell). It is both idiosyncratic and contemporary, yet looks back to early music such as Gregorian Chant.

The opening work Collage über B-A-C-H for strings, oboe, harpsichord and piano employs quotations from Baroque master J. S. Bach. Robert King directs the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with eloquence and a real sense of attention to detail, with oboe soloist Yeon-Hee Kwak playing admirably. To a German text the Seven Magnificat Antiphons scored for mixed choir a-cappella, a contemporary setting of the Vesper service from the Roman Catholic liturgy, the chorus provides plenty of weighty and dynamic contrast to these devotional pieces. Especially memorable, the second movement O Adonai with its deep bass voices evokes the atmosphere of Russian Orthodox choral tradition. The central movement O Schlüssel Davids with its gratifying climax is given a majestic performance by Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Peter Dijkstra’s direction. Pärt’s Cecilia, vergine romana for mixed choir and orchestra is a type of oratorio on the life and martyrdom of Saint Cecilia, a subject that inspired the composer. He discovered a suitable text in the Latin Breviarium Romanum, an old Italian translation at the Monastero di Bose in Northern Italy. The writing, based on material of tintinnabuli triads, contains some meltingly beautiful post-Romantic passages contrasted with starkly dramatic episodes. It is hard to fault the evocative performance of the impressive Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Münchner Rundfunkorchester under Ulf Schirmer.

A substantial work, Pärt’s Litany for soloists, choir and orchestra is modelled on ancient monophonic music. The English text is a translation derived from the book of 24 Prayers of St John Chrysostom for Each Hour of the Day and Night. Here the supplications of the preacher are conveyed by the quartet of soloists. The responses of the chorus represent the congregation. At times it is as if the ethereal voices mysteriously evolve out of the orchestral writing. There is plenty of dramatic contrast in the writing, with a notably thrilling and sustained climax close to the conclusion. In this memorable and powerfully spiritual work, I savour the immaculate singing from the Hilliard Ensemble and the compelling, unified voices of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Under the direction of Marcello Viotti, the Münchner Rundfunkorchester never put a foot wrong, playing with absolute dedication. A key example of Pärt’s tintinnabuli style is his most famous work, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, scored for string orchestra and bell. Here the Münchner Rundfunkorchester under Ulf Schirmer excel, providing glorious waves of polyphonic string writing with the affecting precision of the tolling bell.

In live recordings at four Munich churches, the radio broadcast engineers provide consistently satisfying sound quality with agreeable, well balanced clarity between soloist, chorus and orchestra. There are helpful booklet notes. Nonetheless it is disappointing that the label do not provide any sung texts, nor are they made available online, which would have added to the overall desirability of the release.

This is a highly desirable collection on BR Klassik of Arvo Pärt works recorded live in Munich churches, including a trio of rarely heard choral works and the celebrated Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.

Michael Cookson
 
Performance details
1-3. Collage über B-A-C-H für Streicher, Oboe, Cembalo und Klavier
Yeon-Hee Kwak (oboe), Max Hanft (cembalo/klavier), Münchner Rundfunkorchester / Robert King (director)
rec. live 18 February 2005, Jesuitenkirche St. Michael, Munich

4-10. Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen für gemischten Chor a cappella
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks / Peter Dijkstra (director)
rec. live 3 December 2005, Sankt Joseph Kirche, Munich

11. Cecilia, vergine romana für Chor und Orchester
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Münchner Rundfunkorchester / Ulf Schirmer (director)
rec. live 21 January 2011, Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Munich

12. Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten für Streichorchester und Glocke
Münchner Rundfunkorchester / Ulf Schirmer (director)
rec. live 28 October 2011, Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Munich

13. Litany. Prayers of St John Chrysostom for Each Hour of the Day and Night für Soli, Chor und Orchester
The Hilliard Ensemble (David James (countertenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), John Potter (tenor), Gordon Jones (bass)), Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Marcello Viotti (director)
rec. live 8 July 2000, St. Gabriel Kirche, Munich

 

 




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