Part: Complete Piano Music

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LABELS: Brilliant
ALBUM TITLE: Arvo Part: Complete Piano Music
WORKS: Fur Anna Maria: Fur Alina; Variationen zur Gesundungvon Arinuschka; Ukuaru valss; Fur Anna Maria etc.
PERFORMER: Jeroen Van Veen (piano)


From 1968-76 Pärt wrote virtually nothing for publication or performance. He broke that public silence with a work of slow, quiet, diatonic simplicity. Für Alina announced his tintinnabuli style, and despite its unsophisticated technical structure it can, depending on your mood, evoke anything from unutterable sadness to transcendental serenity. Either way, it is almost unbearably beautiful.

It lasts only two minutes or thereabouts, but it has become customary to extend it by repeats and octave shifts. Pärt himself is reputed to have stretched it to two hours. Alexander Malter, on ECM 449 9582, performs two versions, each just under 11 minutes long. On BIS-CD-702 Alexei Lubimov sticks to a straight, once-through reading. Jeroen Van Veen gives us four pellucid, sensitively-realised versions, clocking in at 20:18, 2:42, 3:15 and 23:07, and none of them outstays its welcome.

On CD2 Pärt’s earliest published works, two Sonatinas and a Partita (1958-59), receive lively, crisp interpretations from Van Veen. They are preceded by four dance pieces for children’s theatre (1956-57) which are pleasant but give no clue to the direction Pärt’s mature music would take. CD1 collects the post-1976 piano music, including relatively well-known pieces like Spiegel im Spiegel and Fratres (played as duets, and based on the cello-piano and violin-piano versions respectively) and more obscure works, including Hymn to a Great City, all played with insight and a crystalline tone.


Barry Witherden