Arvo Pärt: Da Pacem

Arvo Pärt: Da Pacem

by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
     
 
Arvo Pärt's works for chorus are the key to his brand of mystical minimalism, with the resonant mass of human voices conveying a nearly medieval quality of collective spiritual awe and devotion. On Da Pacem, the composer's longtime champion Paul Hillier returns once again to lead a program of Pärt's choral music, mixing new and old pieces that show a

Overview

Arvo Pärt's works for chorus are the key to his brand of mystical minimalism, with the resonant mass of human voices conveying a nearly medieval quality of collective spiritual awe and devotion. On Da Pacem, the composer's longtime champion Paul Hillier returns once again to lead a program of Pärt's choral music, mixing new and old pieces that show a surprisingly diverse range within the composer's familiar, sonorous style. While the almost motionless title track, Da pacem Domine (2004), conducts its prayer for peace with the utmost austerity and stillness, a work like the Salve Regina (2001-2) stands in bold relief with its more overtly expressive impulse. If the early work Psalm 117 -- the first of Pärt's Two Slavonic Psalms (1984), recorded here for the first time -- seems unusual for its dancelike rhythmic profile, something one rarely associates with this composer, the more recent Dopo la vittoria (1996-98) opens and closes with even more cheerful and upbeat strains. And while the Magnificat may be the program's most exquisite music, with its delicate contrasts between differently textured groups of voices, none of the pieces is less than lovely, and when Christopher Bowers-Broadbent joins in on the organ -- especially on the meditative Littlemore Tractus (2000), which closes the program -- the results approach the sublime. Although their mutual sympathy is likely more spiritual than national, it's only fitting that this Estonian composer should receive such glowing performances from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, an ensemble that seems to reach a new level of luminosity with each recording they make under Paul Hillier's direction.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
This collection of short works by Arvo Pärt features a cappella music and some lightly accompanied by an organ. Conducting the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is Paul Hillier, one of Pärt's most celebrated interpreters and the author of a book-length study of his music. Hillier came to Pärt from the field of early music, and in his notes he stresses affinities between Pärt and the composers of medieval and Renaissance eras. Pärt rarely uses music to directly illustrate the text, for example. Instead, just as a composer of five centuries ago might do, he selects a pitch environment and elaborates it through the placement and manipulation of sonorities. Hillier points out Pärt's liking for chains of first-inversion chords and for the so-called Landini cadence, linking those to music of the fourteenth century, especially in England. The comparison to pre-Renaissance English music is a good one more generally as well: Pärt can be very quiet, and his music does bring to mind, as Hillier says of the opening "Da pacem Domine," stones placed with exquisite care in a Zen garden. But he also has a grand manner that can't be described as minimal; even in small-scale pieces like these there are moments where he brings forces together to heighten the music's intensity. The effect is like that of music by Leonel Power and the other composers of the Old Hall manuscript: stark, but also big at times. All this goes to show that Hillier, always a strong interpreter of Pärt's music, is superb here. The sound he obtains from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is both beautiful and impersonal; he focuses not on the tonal conservatism of Pärt's music but on its structures and details. There is little sweetness, but there is an uncanny feel for the way the music slowly unfolds. Hear the composer's setting of Psalm 131 (track 4), the second of the "Two Slavic Psalms," as it begins with subtle establishment of relationships among tones of a simple pentachord and builds a long ascent in intensity out of them. Other conductors may get a slightly more virtuosic interpretation of Pärt's tintinnabulation (bell-effect) technique out of their choirs, but none will have a better feel for where it fits in to the overall structure of a work. This is an excellent choice for anyone contemplating a first Pärt purchase as well as for those who have been following his career and its highly successful promotion on Hillier's part.
New York Times - Allan Kozinn
Paul Hillier is an eloquent interpreter of Mr. Pärt’s idiosyncratic style, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, abetted by resonant church acoustics, contributes the right balance of beauty and austerity.
Gramophone - Barry Witherden
As always, Hillier and his colleagues have done Pärt proud.
BBC Music Magazine - Stephen Johnson
The Estonian Chamber Choir under Paul Hillier sings everything with near miraculous precision.... An aural delight.
Time Out New York - Marion Lignana Rosenberg
The EPCC's singing is immaculate; the choir maintains a prodigious control of tonal color and dynamics, while evoking the awe of humanity confronted with the ultimate mysteries.
Newark Star-Ledger - Bradley Bambarger
Few composers create more moving wholes from the simplest parts than Arvo Pärt.... "Da Pacem" is the third excellent Harmonia Mundi disc devoted to Pärt's choral works [from] Paul Hillier.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/12/2006
Label:
Harmonia Mundi Fr.
UPC:
0093046740122
catalogNumber:
907401
Rank:
48736

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Da Pacem Domine, for SATB chorus or soloists
  2. Salve Regina, for chorus & organ
  3. Slavic Psalms (2), for chorus or soloists
  4. Magnificat, for chorus
  5. An den Wassern zu Babel saßen wir und weinten, for SATB soloists or chorus & organ
  6. Dopo la vittoria, little cantata for chorus
  7. Nunc dimittis, for chorus
  8. Littlemore Tractus, for chorus & organ

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