arvo pärt - tabula rasa

.:: This seminal disc now almost seems like the manifesto for a whole new strain of minimalism that has found an enormously receptive audience. It represented a breakthrough for Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, whose music--like that of his European colleagues John Tavener and Henryk Górecki--pursues an austerely beautiful simplicity that suggests spiritual illumination.

Fratres, given here in two versions, one for piano and violin and the other for 12 cellos, repeatedly intones a sequence resembling chant to convey a sensibility that seems at once archaic and beyond time. Violinist Gidon Kremer, for whom Pärt wrote the exquisitely contemplative and hypnotic title work, grasps the music's koan-like idiom, allowing an inner fullness to resonate through the most fragile, ethereal wisps of tone against the mysterious clangings of prepared piano.

The tolling of the tubular bells in Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten is an emotionally charged lament, based on a simple minor descending scale, that introduces Pärt's fascination with what he calls "tintinnabulation": the literal and metaphorical sound of ringing bells. This recording is also famous for the acoustically warm presence produced by ECM's Manfred Eicher, which magnificently captures the mystical simplicity of Pärt's sound world. --Thomas May

.:: Let it be said at the outset that any criticisms I have of this CD have nothing to do with performance or, for that matter, the quality of the recording. My reservations relate solely to the programming and therefore, inevitably to the intrinsic worth of the pieces on offer.

None of which applies to the opening work, Pärt's famous Tabula Rasa, written back in the late seventies for violinists Gidon Kramer and Tatiana Grindenko. The original recording, on ECM, is still arguably the best, although, listening to it again I find myself increasingly irritated by the occasional coughs and splutters of the audience: the piece was recorded live for German Radio. This is less noticeable during the first movement, Ludus, but ironically obvious during the second, Silencium. read on

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