Arvo Pärt & Polyphony

In a long-standing collaboration with the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, Stephen Layton and Polyphony have released several CD recordings (Berliner Messe & Magnificat, 1998, and Triodion, 2003), performed a concert at The Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester Cathedral (30 July 2013) with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and released a recording of Pärt's choral music (October 2014).  Most recently, Polyphony performed the Berliner Messe in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw (28 February 2015) with the Britten Sinfonia. 

Performance in Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (February 2015): Berliner Messe

Recording sessions with Polyphony (Summer 2014): 'Arvo Pärt: Choral Works'

In the latest installment of the Polyphony-Pärt collaboration, a new recording of choral music by Pärt was released in October 2014.  The recording took place in All Hallows, Gospel Oak (London) between 31 July to 3 August 2013, in the presence of the composer.


'Triodion' (Hyperion Records, 2003) was recorded in the Temple Church (London) in the presence of the composer.  The result is a disc of achingly lovely music at its most mesmeric, featuring no fewer than five world premiere recordings: Dopo la vittoriaNunc dimittisLittlemore TractusMy heart's in the Highlands and Salve Regina.

Recording details: January 2003
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: September 2003
Total duration: 77 minutes 23 seconds

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Gramophone Awards 2004

TOP 20 DISCS OF 2003
BBC Music Magazine

DISC OF THE MONTH (BBC Music Magazine)
EDITOR'S CHOICE (Gramophone)

(Classic FM Magazine)


CD REVIEW Critics' Choice 2003
BBC Radio 3

Selected Reviews

"The heartfelt conviction of these pieces registers profoundly with Stephen Layton, who draws sublime singing from Polyphony... The choir's pursuit of perfection ideally complements the sheer beauty of the music." Classic FM Magazine

"More than any other composer alive today, Arvo Pärt has given us back the idea of eloquent, beautiful simplicity... Stephen Layton and Polyphony seem to have found an ideal balance of intensity and dignified elegance, of sensuousness and purity. The recordings, too, could hardly be better... This disc deserves the widest possible success." BBC Music Magazine

"... a triumph... warm melodies and bursts of colourful chords... sublime, ethereal beauty... Polyphony's is a gorgeous performance." Gramophone

"... ought to sell by the bucket-load." Editor, BBC Music Magazine

"The singing on this disc is little short of stunning: Polyphony's sense of ensemble is second to none, and conductor Stephen Layton paces these works with an unerring sense of Pärt's instinctive feeling for space and texture. The recording, in London's Temple Church, adds a luminuous aura of its own... a deeply satisfying listening experience." The Daily Telegraph

"Layton's superb choir responds eagerly to the different challenges of the various choral traditions from which these pieces derive." The Sunday Times - 'The Month' CD-Rom

"Polyphony give meticulous performances... Perhaps the most powerful piece is the haunting Burns setting for countertenor, My Heart's in the Highlands, beautifully performed by David James and Christopher Bowers-Broadbent." The Sunday Times, Culture

"There's a line in this disc's title track, from an Orthodox ode addressed to Saint Nicholas: 'therewithal hast thou acquired: by humility - greatness, by poverty - riches'. This might have been written about Arvo Pärt's compositional technique, here liberated from the minimalist strictures of earlier decades, treading a fine line between agony and ecstasy in a way unparalleled since Bach... Arvo Pärt's new disc of choral music conveys a quiet and cumulative power, given performances of luminous purity by Polyphony and Stephen Layton." BBCi

"Only the most pure and precise of choral groups can raise Arvo Pärt's work to its optimum level of expression. Polyphony and its conductor Stephen Layton make ideal interpreters." Financial Times

"... this Polyphony recital has been carefully thought-out, and deserves the accolades, notably for the quiet singing and the engulfing, resonant sound. Notes are excellent, and the experience would probably, for 78 minutes, make a believer of an asteroid." Fanfare, USA

Berliner Messe & Magnificat

The impressive Berlin Mass which opens the first Polyphony recording of Arvo Pärt's choral music (Hyperion Records, 1998) was written in 1990, the Credo being a fascinating major-key reworking of the earlier minor-mode Summa; very much an expression of joy at the lifting of the Soviet embargo on 'sacred' music in Estonia. Annum per Annum is a monumental work for solo organ and is here performed on the organ of St Paul's Cathedral: a thoroughly exhilarating experience. The disc ends with the masterpiece De Profundis. This most powerful of texts draws from Pärt an inexorable momentum from a beginning almost out of nothing to a devastating climax.

Recording details: Various dates
Various recording venues
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: May 1998
Total duration: 73 minutes 25 seconds

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Selected Reviews

"A landmark recording. Go and buy it." Choir & Organ

"Outstandingly good on each front: clarity, balance, intonation, timbre, dynamic and textural control and, perhaps most important of all, feeling." Classic CD

"Committed and definitive performances of this intense music." Organists' Review

"Polyphony's singing is immensely cultivated; bright, clear, immaculately phrased, and gorgeously balanced." American Record Guide

"Pärt's music remains an object of unstinting wonder." BBC Music Magazine