Pärt: Da pacem Domine; Triodion; Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen; Nunc dimittis; Dopo la vittoria; Virgencita; The Woman with the Alabaster Box; Tribute to Caesar

Reviewed on Mon 14 Nov, 2016

Two concise but haunting biblical narratives – The Woman with the Alabaster Box and Tribute to Caesar (both written in 1997) – could provide effective inroads for the uninitiated into Pärt’s pure yet harmonically sophisticated style.

Perhaps the most magical episode here occurs 2:56 into the third ‘Ode’ from Triodion (1998), ‘O Holy Saint Nicholas, Pray unto God for Us’, where recollections of one of Arvo Pärt’s most celebrated works Fratres (written in 1977) are unmistakable. It’s a beautiful piece, superbly performed by the Latvian Radio Choir, with extremely high production values, sound-wise. Two concise but haunting biblical narratives – The Woman with the Alabaster Box and Tribute to Caesar (both written in 1997) – could provide effective inroads for the uninitiated into Pärt’s pure yet harmonically sophisticated style, whereas the Nunc dimittis of 2001 is as rapturously beautiful a work as anything Pärt has yet written. The composer has described Dopo la vittoria (1996/8) as “a completely new Te Deum”. Those who find his language too ‘samey’ might do well to start with this variegated composition, where shifts in key, tempo, dynamic and even musical style are relatively frequent. Also included are the Seven Magnificat Antiphons (1988/91), Virgencita (2012, with its dramatic climax) and Da pacem Domine (2006). I’d say that this is as good a Pärt programme as I’ve heard in a long while, and I warmly recommend it.
–Rob Cowan