Pärt: Piano Music

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COMPOSERS: Part
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Music: Zwei Sonatinen für Klavier, Op. 1; Lamentate: Homage to Anish Kapoor and his sculpture ‘Marsyas’ for piano and orchestra; Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinuschka; Für Alina etc
PERFORMER: Ralph van Raat (piano); Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.572525

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This is a well-conceived crash-course in significant moments in the development of Pärt’s music. The best-known piece included is Für Alina. The others will be refreshingly unfamiliar to most people (indeed, the perky miniature Für Anna Maria is a premiere recording) and Ralph van Raat plays them with both sensitivity and verve.

The programme opens with Pärt’s earliest published works, Zwei Sonatinen (1958/9) and Partita (1959), written when he had just begun to attend Tallinn Conservatory. He was still influenced by Prokofiev and Shostakovich but, despite the relative busyness of the lines, they create an ambience of light and air so characteristic of his work after Für Alina (1976) with which he unveiled his tintinnabuli style.

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During the winter of 2002-03 Anish Kapoor’s gigantic sculpture, Marsyas, was exhibited at Tate Modern and made Pärt feel he stood before his own body after death. The experience prompted some startling developments in his music, which previously seemed so serene and confident in its faith. With its visceral Romantic gestures convincingly realised by JoAnn Falletta, Lamentate, a reaction to Kapoor’s work, is imbued with a sense of anxiety. Dark textures and violent outbursts, recalling Pärt’s early avant-garde style, almost conceal the underpinning tintinnabulist matrix. Barry Witherden