Arvo Pärt

Beatus

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This rich collection of works from the great Estonian composer is presented by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, under the direction of Tönu Kaljuste. These very same contributors brought forth Te Deum four years earlier -- a widely popular release on the ECM label. Here, Arvo Pärt's own tintinnabuli style of composition is under the spotlight, one that plants its roots deeply in shifting musical triads that trip memory banks as far back as the fourth century. "Statuit ei Dominus" certainly finds a Gregorian spine, even as it blossoms outward in greater dynamic exclamation. "Missa Syllabica" is more calculated in theory than the ear can imagine, quite transcendental for something written with such rigid syllabic constraints. "Beatus Petronius," one of the most recent compositions here, resonates with Bach-styled themes on the organ and a restrained, crystal-pitched chorus. The seven evenings that lead up to Christmas Eve are the featured themes to "7 Magnificant-Antiphonen," a stretch of brief and beautiful passages that encompasses the chill and anticipation of the approaching holiday as much as its religious significance. "De Profundis" prowls reverently and patiently forward like a prophet and "Memento" is the ever-humbled voice of prayer; even as it rises in strength, it does so with simple harmonic grace. "Cantate Domino" sparkles in peaceful celebration; perhaps the most easily recognized usage of triads, it practically borders on the minimalism of Glassworks-era Philip Glass, but centuries deeper. "Solfeggio," the only piece here composed before his tintinnabuli style, threads open-ended tones toward infinity in a captivating stillness -- so rich that it may take several minutes to realize the CD is over. The liner notes and commentary by Philip Borg-Wheeler make for a fascinating read about Part's history and the somewhat squeamish response he has to his Western popularity. Unfortunately for the composer, the credit is more than due.