Part: In principio; La Sindone; Cecilia; vergine romana; Da Pacem Domine; Mein Weg; Für Lennart in memoriam

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COMPOSERS: Part
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: In principio; La Sindone; Cecilia; vergine romana; Da Pacem Domine; Mein Weg; Für Lennart in memoriam
PERFORMER: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Estonian National SO; Tallinn Chamber Orchestra/Tõnu Kaljuste
CATALOGUE NO: 476 6990

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Whilst almost everything he writes is still instantly recognisable as his, there have been significant and somewhat unexpected developments in Pärt’s music in recent years. Some of these were subtly evolutionary, others rather startling.

The latter perhaps date from the composer’s encounter with Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, Marsyas, which occupied, in every sense, the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern during the winter of 2002-03. Pärt felt as if he stood before his own body after death: ‘I had a strong sense of not being ready to die and [asked] myself what I could still accomplish in the time left to me.’

Recent compositions, while not relinquishing the ethereal beauty we associate with Pärt, have seemed less confident in their serenity, acquiring a more corporeal quality.

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A sense of anxiety pervades the oldest piece, the 1989 organ work Mein Weg, appearing here in a 2000 revision of its 1994 re-scoring for strings and percussion; and sometimes, as with In Principio and La Sindone, there are episodes of almost bruising physicality which is a little shocking in the context of Pärt’s mature music, though it was unmistakably there in several early works. Barry Witherden