Stabat mater and instrumental works
Like almost no other contemporary composer, the Estonian Arvo Pärt (born 1935) has succeeded in bringing sacred music back to the attention of a larger audience, even outside the church service. Because of its meditative character and its return to the simplest basic musical forms, his music gives us an insight into key spiritual moments. To this end, even before his emigration from the Soviet Union, Pärt invented what he referred to as the “tintinnabuli style” (Latin for “little bells”) of composing. In 1977 he delivered one of the first significant examples of this style with the first version of Fratres (Brothers), which still has no fixed and prescribed instrumentation. In its ascetic austerity and almost liturgical solemnity, the work is reminiscent of a communal prayer or a spiritual act. – The choral and instrumental works presented on the new CD from BR-KLASSIK are fully in line with this understanding of sound: four works for string orchestra, La Sindone for violin and orchestra, and Stabat mater for choir and string orchestra, covering all the composer’s creative periods between 1977/1983 and 2008.
Stabat mater for choir and string orchestra, impressive for its sound effects and its 25-minute performance duration, is the highlight of the album. The music was commissioned as early as 1985 by the Alban Berg Foundation for a smaller ensemble; in 2008, Pärt created a second version for mixed choir and string orchestra, this time as a commission for the Tonkünstler Orchestra of Lower Austria and Kristjan Järvi, the youngest conductor of the Estonian musical family that has been close friends with the composer for decades.
Fratres, written in 1977 and published in various guises over the years for a wide range of scorings, is a testimony to the composer’s musical self-discovery. The version for string orchestra and percussion was written in 1983. Summa, also dating back to 1977, is a setting of the Credo from the Latin mass for choir, from which the string orchestra version written in 1991 was derived. – Silouan’s Song, written in the same year, 1991, is based on a prayer by the Russian Orthodox monk Silouan, the saint of Mount Athos, and is not sung. – For his long-time companion Lennart Meri, Pärt composed Für Lennart in Memoriam, a similarly wordless prayer for string orchestra; it was first performed in Tallinn on 26 March 2006, at the funeral service for Lennart Meri, the President of the Republic of Estonia. – The three-part orchestral work La Sindone was inspired by the Turin Shroud, the “Sacra Sindone”, which bears the image of a crucified person and is identified with the face of Christ beyond all questions of authenticity. Pärt’s funeral music was composed in 2005.
Despite or perhaps precisely because of the radical reduction of its means of expression, Pärt’s music demands the greatest care in its performance from those playing, and is masterfully realised in this recording by the Bavarian Radio Chorus and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester under their chief conductor Ivan Repušić. (The recordings were made in Munich in July and November 2020 in compliance with the distance and hygiene regulations imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Bavarian Radio Chorus
Florian Benfer, chorus master
Munich Radio Orchestra
Stanko Madić, violin
Ivan Repušić, conductor
BR-KLASSIK CD 900335