Arvo Pärt Live
‘Arvo Pärt Live’ covers a broader area than BR-Klassik’s previous release of Pärt’s Te Deum (7/15), ranging from the early, quotation-heavy Collage über B A C H via the ever-present Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten – where Pärt’s music flows with fluent ease – to two more recent large-scale works for soloists, choir and orchestra.
The terse, three-movement Collage über B A C H will come as a shock to those fed on a diet of tintinnabuli Pärt. Here, the composer juxtaposes Bach fragments with jagged chromatic clusters. The second movement sets Johann Sebastian’s Sarabande in D minor from his Sixth English Suite, BWV811, against eerily familiar atonal mirror-images of itself. This is dark homage rather than playful parody, however, and the Munich Radio Orchestra under Robert King get it right.
The Cantus, this time with Ulf Schirmer directing, is less convincing. Several recent recordings, including Kristjan Järvi’s excellent rendition with the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic opt for a slower tempo to foreground the work’s rich layering of string lines. Schirmer also takes his foot off the pedal but the music gradually loses any sense of forward motion and finally becomes stuck in its own canonic quagmire. Schirmer is more persuasive in the 20-minute Cecilia, vergine romana for choir and orchestra. It’s not a work that gets aired too often, which is a shame, because the final section (which evokes something of Glass in its oscillating thirds) contains some of the composer’s most beautiful moments.
The Hilliard Ensemble, Bavarian Radio Chorus (excellent in the seven Magnificat-Antiphonen) and Munich Radio Orchestra are all brought together for Pärt’s powerful setting of the Litany, providing another striking ending to an impressive recording – resonant sub-basses shaking the very foundations of St Gabriel’s Church, Munich, with low C sharps.