The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips

Arvo Pärt: Tintinnabuli

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Some might not pick out Britain's Tallis Scholars as an ideal group for performing the music of Arvo Pärt, which has been composed mostly with larger choirs in mind. Eastern European groups seem to bring out its resonant effects, and larger British groups like Polyphony have also had success with it. For those who like Pärt's abstract, holy minimalist style, which seems to create its own world, try out this alternative interpretation. The Tallis Scholars deploy two voices per part in most of the works, resulting in an ensemble of 16 (or 17) for all the pieces except for the slightly smaller and less dense I Am the True Vine (1996). It seems too few, but the singers deliver startlingly edgy purity and, at times, blazing intensity. Sample the two-part Tribute to Caesar (tracks 16 and 17), where the blinding high notes represent not just something new in the world of Pärt interpretation but something new for the Tallis Scholars as well, who never have had to deploy these sounds in Renaissance polyphony or even in the other contemporary music (such as that of John Tavener, close enough to Pärt) that they have recorded. There's a nice selection of Pärt's English-language material here, including the amusing which was the son of…, commissioned by an Icelandic venue and playing on the patronymic (and matronymic) structure of Icelandic names. Gimell's engineering, at the Chapel of Merton College, is ideal. This is not definitive Pärt, but it is fascinating and often enough thrilling.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen
1 1:27
2 2:28
3 1:00
4 2:01
5 2:02
6 1:10
7 3:17
8 7:13
9 7:37
Nunc dimittis
10 1:44
11 2:47
12 1:18
The Woman with the Alabaster Box
13 2:27
14 1:16
15 1:45
Tribute to Caesar
16 3:42
17 2:47
18 7:10
19 0:23
20 3:34
21 4:37
22 4:12
23 1:01
blue highlight denotes track pick