PÄRT Stabat Mater MOODY Simeron
The music of both Arvo Pärt and Ivan Moody is characterised by its directness, the sonic purity of its gestures. How paradoxical, then, that it should frequently spawn such cloudy, quasi-mystical commentary. Philippe Grisar’s extended and meandering booklet-notes do this release no favours but they can’t obscure the simple beauty of an exceptional recording. Ivan Moody’s 2012 Simeron and Arvo Pärt’s 1985 Stabat mater are a natural pairing. Scored for string trio and three solo voices, both offer a musical meditation on faith and humanity.
Heard on disc for the first time, the Moody is typical of the composer’s recent work – a distillation and crystallisation of a style that has become ever cleaner and more texturally refined. Setting the Greek text of the Byzantine Holy Week Rite and a sermon by Bishop Melito of Sardis, the work finds a harmonic astringency to balance its yielding, unbending instinct to melody. Chant meets human cries, ecstatic chorales break through scuttling chromatics in a performance whose precision and restraint only heighten its intensity.
The Goeyvaerts Trio and singers Zsuzsi Tóth, Barnabás Hegyi and Olivier Berten find something equally exciting in Pärt’s well-trodden Stabat mater. Their recording is made using just intonation rather than equal temperament. What might sound like a gimmick exposes new colour in the composer’s spare score, each note glowing with harmonics and overtones, voices and strings ringing like a struck bell. The Theatre of Voices recording has long been my go to but this exquisite rethinking has displaced it. There’s nothing stark or white about this musical purity, which finds kaleidoscopic depth in the narrowest of palettes.