Pärt In Principio

A composer’s expanding horizons are captured in these superb performances

Author: 
David Fanning

Pärt In Principio

  • In Principio
  • (La) Sidone
  • Cecilia, vergine romana
  • Da pacem Domine
  • Mein Weg hat Gipfel und Wellentäler
  • Für Lennart in memoriam

These recent works demonstrate a certain expansion in Pärt’s horizons (a tendency confirmed by first reports of his Fourth Symphony, premiered in Los Angeles in January 2009). They still dwell in the niche of lapidary minimalism, but while they keep faith with his trademark “tintinnabulatory” style, they now use it with flexibility and flow. The dramatic directness of In principio, at 20 minutes the longest work on this CD, has one thinking of Janácek or even the Icelander Jón Leifs, not to speak of its candidly neo-Bachian progressions; exhilaration emanates from this score, along with piety and lamentation. Of the other works for chorus and orchestra, Cecilia, vergine romana commemorates in more restrained terms the martyrdom of the third-century Roman noblewoman adopted 1200 years later as the patron saint of music, while the five-minute Da pacem Domine is a statuesque tribute to the victims of the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings.

La Sindone (“The Shroud”), for trumpet, trombone, four percussionists and strings, leaves more room for listeners to find their own symbolic meaning in its frequent silences. Mein Weg (“My Path”), for 14 strings and percussion, is nothing to do with autobiography but a response to an extract from the French-Jewish poet Edmond Jabès’s Livre des questions concerning the vissicitudes of life, and the disc ends with an austere memorial to Lennart Meri, president of Estonia from 1992 to 2001. Superbly performed and recorded, this CD is self-recommending to anyone interested in Pärt’s recent work and his tentative ways forward from doctrinaire schematicism.

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