- My Heart's in the Highlands, for chorus (or alto or countertenor) & organ
The 2012 Decca compilation, Serenity: The Beauty of Arvo Pärt, is not likely to be of special interest to listeners who are already fans of the composer. While none of these performances can be faulted, most of them do not represent the most satisfying, authoritative version of the pieces. Pärt created or authorized many different orchestrations of his most popular works, and there are some obscure arrangements here that might attract fans who want every version possible. Some of the relatively rare pieces include "My Heart's in the Highlands for counter tenor and organ"; "Fratres" (of which there are 16 published versions), for violin, string orchestra, and percussion, an especially nice arrangement; and a version of "Spiegel in Spiegel for violin and harp" that is well-suited to these instruments, played sensitively and idiosyncratically by Pärt specialist Gidon Kremer and Noako Yoshino. The three performances by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen are also standouts, as is a high-energy reading of "Tabula rasa," featuring violinist Gil Shaham and Neeme Järvi leading Göteborgs Symfoniker, which has more life than the ECM premiere recording. With that exception, listeners looking for authoritative performance of Pärt would do best to seek out the recordings on ECM, produced by Manfred Eicher, who "discovered" the composer, or at least introduced him widely to western audiences in the early 1980s. The performers were mostly Estonian or at least Baltic (in addition to Paul Hillier and the Hilliard Ensemble, early champions Pärt's music). The acoustics on all of Decca's performances are very fine, but there is some variability in the ambience of the selections on the compilation, taken from albums by several labels, released over a period of 20 years. The immaculate, luminous sound of Eicher's recordings is still hard to beat.