PÄRT Te Deum. Berlin Mass
As 80th-birthday presents go, this handsomely produced tribute to Arvo Pärt will take some surpassing. Recorded in 2012 and 2014, the programme’s centrepiece is a spellbinding account of the half-hour-long Te Deum, first heard in Cologne in 1985. Scored for three choirs, strings, prepared piano and a recording of a wind harp, this spacious music is full of alluring contrasts. The text is broken up by a series of short ritornellos and the use of a variety of choral textures. The clarity of Pärt’s counterpoint is clothed in an especially fine raiment, including those characteristically wispy vibrato-free violins against the dark resonance of the superb bass voices. By way of contrast, Wallfahrtslied (‘Pilgrims’ Song’), a sublime in memoriam for the Estonian film and theatre director Grigori Kromanov, is a sort of vocal Immovable Doh with the men floating on just one note as the strings shiver and yearn around them in a slow-motion chromatic haze.
The full, mixed choir returns for the Berlin Mass, in the 1992 version of five movements with string accompaniment. The Kyrie’s timeless quality sets the scene beautifully. Singers and players are perfectly balanced. Between the Gloria and Credo movements Peter Dijkstra interpolates the mini-cantata Dopo la vittoria, a commission by the City of Milan for the 1600th anniversary of St Ambrose’s death. The opening bars of the cantata and the Mass’s Gloria contain the only overtly fast and happy music on the disc. The final, soothing Agnus Dei ends with a calming vision of eternity. Simplicity is the keyword here.
Playing and singing are both beyond reproach, as is the glowing recorded sound in Munich’s Prinzregententheater and Herkulessaal.