Pärt: Collage sur B-A-C-H; Summa; Fratres; Symphony No. 2; Credo

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COMPOSERS: Part
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Pärt • Glass • Martynov
WORKS: Collage sur B-A-C-H; Summa; Fratres; Symphony No. 2; Credo
PERFORMER: Boris Berman (piano); Philharmonia & Chorus/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9134 DDD

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For lovers of Arvo Pärt’s music – Passio, Stabat Mater and Tabula Rasa – this disc will be fascinating if disturbing. It includes seven works dating from 1964 to 1991, which reveal a composer searching for an identity, made the more bewildering by a running order that is not chronological. Three works receive premier recordings: Credo (1968) for piano solo, mixed choir and orchestra; Fratres (1977) – hardly a new work, but in yet another arrangement, for string orchestra and percussion (1983), which I find far less successful than the 12-cello version; and Summa (1978), a new version of a work originally for voices, but now arranged less effectively for strings (1991). His Symphony No.2 (1966), the most substantial work on this disc, displays hallmarks of the Sixties – anarchic, violent and disruptively dissonant – relating to music which he perhaps heard while working as a radio technician. Bach has been central to Pärt and three works here are overtly related. The most interesting is ‘Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte’ (1976) with its extraordinarily evocative ‘bee buzzing’, even if the ‘tierce de Picardie’ (final major chord) seems miscalculated. But more alarming is Pärt’s use in his Credo of the C major Prelude from Book 1 of ‘The 48’, here admirably performed by Boris Berman. But is this kitsch, puckish humour or just bad taste? Fellow Estonian Neeme Järvi draws fine performances from the Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra, particularly the brass and timpani.

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Annette Morreau