Part: Triodion; Dopo la vittoria; … which was the son of…; Nunc dimittis; I am the True Vine; Littlemore Tractus

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COMPOSERS: Part
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Triodion; Dopo la vittoria; … which was the son of…; Nunc dimittis; I am the True Vine; Littlemore Tractus
PERFORMER: David James (countertenor), Christopher Bowers-Broadbent (organ); Polyphony/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67375

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More than any other composer alive today, Arvo Pärt has given us back the idea of eloquent, beautiful simplicity. Granted, he can take his asceticism too far – sometimes numinous purity shades over into mere plainness. But with the exception of the creakily formulaic Burns setting My Heart’s in the Highlands, that’s not the case with any of the works recorded here. Again and again there’s a sense of wonder and delight that so much can be achieved with such modest, uncomplicated means. The yo-yoing effect as words are passed around the choir in I am the True Vine could have been irritatingly naive; instead it’s quietly mesmerising. A single shift of harmony in the Littlemore Tractus is like a sudden beam of light. Dopo la vittoria manages to be reverential and dancingly light-hearted at the same time. There’s even humour (not a quality that’s often ascribed to Pärt) in … which was the son of…, a setting of the interminable and rather dubious genealogy of Jesus in St Luke’s Gospel. Of course, a lot depends on the performances. 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: a suitably spacious background acoustic, but with everything clearly in focus. This disc deserves the widest possible success. Stephen Johnson