Various Artists

Arvo Pärt: A Portrait

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Arvo Pärt: A Portrait Review

by Blair Sanderson

This double-disc survey of Arvo Pärt's distinctive oeuvre covers his most popular choral pieces, but also presents enough of his early work to provide a reasonably accurate portrait of a composer who has passed through several eventful decades and made several adjustments in his style. A few of Pärt's more experimental pieces are presented here, as well as examples of his later, more familiar sacred works employing the tintinnabular method. Yet even when it is most dissonant or atonal (e.g., in the second movement of the Symphony No. 1), Pärt's music always seems to point toward a modal hierarchy of tones based on major or minor triads. The "ringing of changes" on these chords is most evident in the later choral works, represented by excerpts from the Berliner Messe, Passio, and whole presentations of the Magnificat, The Beatitudes, and the Triodion. Also, Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, Fratres, and Tabula Rasa are representative of Pärt's skillful writing for strings in this layered, shimmering style. An informative, illustrated booklet comes with this comprehensive package, and Naxos has taken exceptional care in balancing the sound of all the selections, including the licensed tracks, taken from albums previously issued by BIS, Nimbus, and Claudio Records.

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