Polyphony / Stephen Layton

Arvo Pärt

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The listener curious about the music of Estonian minimalist Arvo Pärt, now the world's most-often performed contemporary composer, has plenty of choices, including a fine budget-line release by the performers here. Pärt's music would seem to be ideally suited to the British choral group Polyphony and its conductor, Stephen Layton, which is precise, smooth, not so small as to lose the essential choral concept, but not so large as to smudge the subtler sound effects built into the composer's static structures. The group has been performing Pärt's music since before it was popular, and one really can't go wrong by choosing them. Why, then, this new release? Compared with the group of pieces on the Helios budget recording of 2003, this one is more of a survey of Pärt's music, reaching all the way back to his serialist days in the 1960s (Solfeggio, track 6, in which fascinating hints of the many who rejected the modernist hegemony can be heard), and forward to the lovely Virgencita, composed for a 2012 concert in León, Mexico, and here recorded for the first time. In addition to Spanish, there is music in Latin, German, English, and Old Church Slavonic. There are Pärt hits like The Woman in the Alabaster Box (1997) and some more unusual piece that treat Pärt's trademark tintinnabulation structures in distinctive ways. Hyperion's engineers, working in London's All Hallows church, produce the expected unfussily clear results, and the product, for those looking for Pärt, is just the ticket.

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