Pärt Darf ich…; Fratres; Passacaglia; Tabula Rasa; Spiegel im Spiegel
Viktoria Mullova, Florian Donderer (violin), Liam Dunachie (piano); Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Onyx ONYX 4201 59:02 mins
It was largely thanks to violinist Gidon Kremer that Arvo Pärt became known in the West, having been encouraged by his Baltic fellow in adopting his now celebrated ‘tintinnabulation’ style, inspired by the bells and chants of his Orthodox faith.
Three works in particular, dating from 1977-8 – two years before Pärt left Soviet-oppressed Estonia for Germany – shook listeners to the core: Tabula Rasa, effectively a concerto for two violins, prepared piano and strings; Fratres, heard here in Pärt’s 1991 arrangement for solo violin, strings and percussion; and Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano. Performed with yearning, bitter-sweet passion, the intensity of the works glow anew and are far from austere in the hands of Viktoria Mullova – herself a USSR defector – alongside Florian Donderer (violin), Liam Dunachie (piano) and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi. Underpinning lovely playing, it’s the performers’ sensitivity to Pärt’s mathematically-inspired structures that lends real eloquence to his soundworld. The sense of proportion in tempo, phrase arc and inner voices is striking. With the addition of Darf ich… (1995/99) and Passacaglia (2003), this recording is testament to the enduring strength of a vision which altered the landscape of contemporary music everywhere.