Various Artists

The Very Best of Arvo Pärt

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For newcomers to the work of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, this generous two-disc collection of performances from EMI's archive would be a good place to start exploring. The authoritative Pärt performances would probably be the premiere releases on ECM, produced by Manfred Eicher, but these performances are all of a very high quality and there is a handful of works that ECM has never recorded. Pärt's most famous works are here; there are three versions each of the ever-popular Fratres (for violin and piano, string orchestra and harp, and string quartet) and Summa (for mixed voices, string orchestra, and string quartet), as well as the version of Spiegel in Spiegel for violin and piano, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell, and the concerto for two violins and prepared piano, Tabula rasa. There is a good mix of choral, chamber, and orchestral music. English violinist Tasmin Little is featured prominently, in Fratres, Spiegel in Spiegel, and Tabula rasa, and the Chilingirian Quartet plays Summa and Fratres. The orchestral works are divided between the Bournemouth Sinfonietta led by Richard Studt and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra led by Paavo Järvi. The choral groups include the Vasari Singers led by Jeremy Backhouse, the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, led by Stephen Cleobury, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir led by Tönu Kaljuste. The performances are uniformly excellent; there's not a clunker among them. The sound, too, is top-notch, and perhaps surprisingly, given the variety of recording venues, it is remarkably consistent from track to track.

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