WORKS: Peace upon you, Jerusalem; Zwei Beter; Morning Star; The Woman with the Alabaster Box; The Deer’s Cry; Virgencita; Solfeggio; Tribute to Caesar; Summa; Memento; Alleluia-Tropus; Da pacem Domine
PERFORMER: Polyphony/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68056
There is no shortage of recitals of Arvo Pärt’s shorter choral works in catalogue, but anything by Polyphony is always welcome. Most of the repertoire on this disc is familiar, particularly Summa and The Woman with the Alabaster Box, but there are two premiere recordings, Virgencita and Alleluia-Tropus.
Virgencita (2012) is a setting of a Spanish text addressing the Virgin of Guadalupe, an apparition seen near Mexico City in 1531. It’s only the second time Pärt has set a Spanish text but, as many of the words are close to the Latin, that fact is merely incidental: it does not affect Pärt’s musical diction. As in much of his output in recent years, the meditative serenity of faith seems leavened by a degree of anxiety. A version of the Hail Mary, its pleas evolve from a spare, hushed opening to a brief, beseeching forte. Alleluia-Tropus (2008) originally included eight cellos (a favourite sonority for Pärt has always loved cello ensembles), but Polyphony’s sound is, as always, so rich and beautiful that there is no sense of anything missing.
Most of the other pieces are from the last 20 years, although there is Summa (1977), one of his earliest ‘tintinnabulist’ works, and the breath-taking Solfeggio (1963), which might be mistaken for one of Ligeti’s ‘cloud-mass’ compositions. Written during his ‘avant-garde’ period, it has strong pre-echoes of his later work and fits the programme perfectly.