This two-disc EMI set presents early and mature works by Estonian post-modernist Arvo Pärt. The early works are represented by the Nekrolog from 1960 and the I Sümfoonia (Symphony No. 1) from 1963 performed by Paavo Järvi and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. These are standard-issue hyper-expressive serial works in the post-Second Viennese School mold that would be unremarkable except for their origins in the Soviet-ruled Estonia. Järvi and the musicians of the Swedish capital turn in dedicated and determined but not always totally together performances that make a strong case for these not yet wholly stylistically secure works. The mature works are represented by the Stabat Mater from 1985 performed by the Taverner Consort and Fretwork under Andrew Parrott and by all the works but on the second disc performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Tönu Kaljuste. At first, the gap between the two Pärts may seem unbridgeable; the mature Pärt's unique fusion of medieval modality and modern minimalism with intense spirituality seems to have little in common with the earlier Pärt's violent secular serialism. For fans of the mature Pärt, the performances here by Pärt's countrymen of such masterpieces as the Missa Syllabica from 1977, the De Profundis from 1980, and the Seven Magnificat Antiphons from 1988 will likely be embraced as among the very best ever recorded. Kaljuste is one of the great choral directors of our time and his control of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is complete. But the performances also have the intensity and conviction that only come from performers committed in the choir's devotion to the music. The bridge between early Pärt and mature Pärt is the final work on the second disc, the a cappella Solfeggio from 1963, which in its austerity and rising sense of ecstasy seems to predict his later change of aesthetic direction.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Symphony No. 1 ("Polyphonic"), Op. 9|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Missa sillabica, for chorus|
|Magnificat Antiphones (7), for chorus|