PÄRT Lamentate. These Words...
Ethereal, spiritual, transcendental … such epithets are often applied to Arvo Pärt but only partly reveal the composer’s sound and musical style. One need look no further than Lamentate for piano and orchestra. Composed in 2002, the starting point for Lamentate was Anish Kapoor’s immense sculpture Marsyas (the first performance took place in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, where Marsyas was installed in 2003). It prompted Pärt to look to the Slavic text of a Byzantine hymn, whose opening lines translate as follows: ‘My time is ending and thy dread judgement seat is being made ready. My life is passing; judgement awaits me.’
While these words are never actually heard, they are presented in the work’s main theme – solemnly announced at the beginning on trombones and trumpets. The music then gets caught up in a dense, dissonant sonic vortex – very un-Pärt-like – and while the work is not all fire and brimstone (the fourth and fifth movements revisit the sound world of earlier Pärt pieces such as Für Alina and Fratres), an air of uncertainty hovers ominously over the work like a dark cloud. This reaches a climax in the seventh movement with the return of the main theme, this time punctuated by visceral rhythmic interjections in piano and percussion.
Despite such sharp contrasts and jagged juxtapositions, in comparison with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta, the Bruckner Orchester Linz under Dennis Russell Davies produce a more balanced performance. This is enhanced by the unobtrusive piano interpolations of Maki Namekawa, who provides subtle and nuanced extensions to the orchestral palette. The other work included here, These Words … (2008) for string orchestra and percussion, is more subdued though in its own way equally unsettling. Both works perhaps demonstrate how inadequate and inappropriate a term such as ‘holy minimalism’ can be in describing the music of a composer whose style is far broader and more variegated than is often given credit.