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Pärt: Orient Occident

Album Summary

>Pärt, Arvo : Ein Wallfahrtslied (Pilgrim's Song), for male chorus & string orchestra
>Pärt, Arvo : Orient & Occident, for string orchestra
>Pärt, Arvo : Como cierva sedienta, version for women's choir & orchestra
Performers Conductor Ensemble
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Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"Tonu Kaljuste's Swedish Radio Choir and Orchestra are outstanding here, delivering the music with searing emotionality and superb sound. The two choral works are sung in German, apparently Part's preferred language. Many of our finest recordings of this composer's music are from this label. Confirmed Part addicts are already snatching this one from store shelves, so don't hesitate." - Koob, ARG

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
This programme represents a retreat from the remote cloister where for so long Arvo Pärt invited us to join him, a definite shift from the aerated tintinabuli. The purity remains, so do the spare textures and, to a limited extent, earlier stylistic traits. Pärt's voice is always recognisable.

And yet who, years ago, could have anticipated the tempered tumult that erupts in the third movement of Como cierva sedienta, a half hour choral drama commissioned by the Festival de Música de Canarias? This recording subscribes to ECM's well-tried aesthetic, in which clarity, fine-tipped detail and carefully gauged perspectives are familiar priorities. The texts come from Psalms 42 and 43, opening with 'As the hart panteth... ' (Psalm 42).

Even in the first few seconds, after chorus and bell have registered, vivid instrumental colour signals a fresh departure. It's almost as if Pärt is relishing textures previously denied him, like a penitent released from fasting. Take the second movement, 'Why art thou cast down, my soul?', which opens among lower strings then switches to tactile pizzicati and woodwinds that are almost Tchaikovskian in their post-Classical delicacy. The long closing section is pensive but conclusive: a dramatic opening, drum taps that recall Shostakovich 11, expressively varied instrumental commentary, quiet string chords later on and a closing episode filled with equivocal tranquillity.

The two shorter works are also significant. Wallfahrtslied (1984, 'Song of Pilgrimage'), a memorial to a friend, is presented in the revised version for strings and men's choir.

Again Pärt engages a lyrical muse, particularly for the emotionally weighted prelude and postlude whereas the accompaniment to the main text (Psalm 121, 'I lift up mine eyes unto the hills... '), a combination of pizzicato and shuddering-bowed phrases, suggests a lament tinged with anger. The seven-minute string piece Orient and Occident has 'a monophonic line which runs resolutely through [it]', to quote Pärt's wife. Snake-like oriental gestures, coiled with prominent portamenti (the sort used by Indian orchestras) sound like an Eastern variant of Pärt's earlier string works. The choral pieces, though, are the prime reasons for investing in this exceptional and musically important release.

Notes & Reviews:

Arvo Pärt's assembly for ECM is a paler shade of brilliant. There are fewer extremes -- the sort of compositions that have made him a standout in classical music. Here, the eternally pious Estonian explores the colors in the middle of the spectrum and stirs them about in confident strokes. Gone are the days where he wrestled with his own voice in orchestral settings, or filled in portions of it with course patchworks of Bach in brilliant and unsettling collages. Although Orient & Occident sounds like a compromise of those extremes, it could actually be a new chapter. "Ein Wallfahrtslied" is a hushed tension of strings shifting beneath male voices and low stabs of brass. As it progresses, the same strings crescendo to jagged spikes of beauty, then subside again into a harmonic fog. Similar in respect to the work of Elliot Goldenthal (whose film scores thrive on such elements), there is a medieval tonality that runs through the varying dynamics. The featured piece "Orient & Occident" alternates restlessly between Eastern and Western tonalities -- phrasings that bloom chord clusters and menacing slides, like a horrific dragon that tilts its thorny head in pensive curiosity. This piece is majestic, tortured, and bittersweet, but restrained enough that the dragon never breathes fire. The movements that comprise "Como Cierve Sedenta" resonate with tenderness, lament, and triumph. His first composition to use Spanish text, the language made considerable impact on musical structure and phrasing. Pärt is usually sensitive enough to text that syllabication determines the flow his pieces take. Fellow Estonian and frequent collaborator Tönu Kaljuste conducts the Swedish Radio Choir and the Swedish Radio Orchestra with fluidity and trusts the value of silence and breath. Mastering the orchestra like a tool, he can wield it like a hammer or suspend it mid-air like a silken thread. He and the composer are well suited for each other, and any release that bears both names deserves special attention. Orient & Occident may not have the same pyrotechnics as his other albums, yet Arvo Pärt reveals to listeners here the modest eternal flame. ~ Glenn Swan



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Works Details

>Pärt, Arvo : Ein Wallfahrtslied (Pilgrim's Song), for male chorus & string orchestra
  • Performer: Swedish Radio Choir (Voice)
  • Conductor: Tönu Kaljuste
  • Running Time: 8 min. 54 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1984-2001

>Pärt, Arvo : Orient & Occident, for string orchestra
  • Performer: Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Tönu Kaljuste
  • Running Time: 7 min. 11 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1999

>Pärt, Arvo : Como cierva sedienta, version for women's choir & orchestra
  • Performers: Helena Olsson (Soprano); Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Tönu Kaljuste
  • Running Time: 30 min. 41 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1998