Arvo Pärt: Choral Works (CD Review - Audiophile Audition, 2014)

Polyphony has a long association with Arvo Part’s music, including a 2003 Gramophone Award for Triodion and other choral works, also on Hyperion. This disc is their third for the label with Part (sometimes spelled Paart without the umlaut over a single a), and features music from 1963 to 2012, including Latin, German and English, Church Slavonic and Spanish languages in varied Biblical texts, with some very ancient prayers as well.

Most people, at least serious listeners, are very familiar with Part’s music by now, and he does tend to polarize opinions, though as time has gone on and he has become such an important component of the contemporary music scene this division has lessened somewhat. Now, as a noted and almost “emeritus” agent of the highest artistic aspirations, there are at least some works by the composer that anyone can like. On this disc, because of the great distance in time, we get a tremendous overview of the composer’s art, and the surprising thing is how consistent is the evolution in style. There is no Penderecki or Rochberg swish of the cape to reveal a new and born-again elegance; instead, whether in his more tonally-oriented pieces or those that are quite striking in their dissonance, there is a consistency of progression and development that makes the music immediately recognizable, and all of them are astoundingly moving and persuasive. Even if one is not particularly religious Part’s convictions will at least sell them on the intensity of his own beliefs and draw them into his inner thoughts and firmly-held philosophical ponderings.

Layton and forces are simply fantastic here, boasting a purity of sound and sweetness of approach that make for the perfect Part pairing. The sound is exquisite, and this is one of the best Part albums I have ever been privileged to hear.

—Steven Ritter

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