Avro Pärt: Symphony No. 1 “Polyphonic”; Symphonies No. 2 and No. 3; Symphony No. 4 “Los Angeles” NFM Wrocław Philharmonic & Tõnu Kaljuste cond
For over four hundred years St. Cecilia has been venerated by musicians as the patron of their vaunted art. And while the Arvo Pärt may also be one of those musicians, it is often he who is held in the highest esteem today. If not as the patron of musicians in the classical realm, he certainly is a composer closest to that Communion of Saints. Indeed if any one composer is been said to be responsible for creating a public receptive to the “holy minimalism” of John Tavener, it is this monkish Estonian composer. It was also Arvo Pärt who so enchanted the German bassist and producer Manfred Eicher, that he selected Pärt’s stunning composition Tabula Rasa from (his) 1976-77 ‘tintinnabulist” period to launch the ECM New Series, that label’s extension into the world of Western Classical music in 1984.
Almost thirty-eight years later the label has released what must certainly be – for the Arvo Pärt faithful, at any rate – another touchstone, The Symphonies which gathers together, four iconic orchestral works performed by NFM Wrocław Philharmonic , with maestro Tõnu Kaljuste conducting. The works are forty-four years apart; the “Polyphonic”, “Symphony No.1” was written in 1964 and his “Los Angeles”, “Symphony No. 4” was written in 2008. As a result, this masterfully recorded disc provides a panoramic view of the musical incarnations of Pärt.
“Symphony No. 1” shows the greatest residual effect of Pärt’s national service as an army drummer and in its score unfolds a melody that swirls amidst a diaphanous canvas of colours that glimmer in darkness and in light. The profound nature of the music also acknowledges his inclination towards rhythmic aspects of the large musical canvas while also pursuing multiple lines of musical texture at once. Upon abandoning the serialist techniques of composition in the second half of the 1060s, Pärt turned his attention to a collage approach to composition and the (1966) “Symphony No. 2” was developed in a polystylistic vein.
By the 1970s, when Pärt began to mix seventeenth-century elements with Orthodox chant, his “Symphony No. 3, began to illustrate a new incarnation – one in which the composer began to move his music forward by looking back. The serenity experienced in listening to that symphony is largely a result of that wistful contemplation of a life lived. In “Symphony No. 4”, clearly the symbolism of transformation: night and day, prophecy and fulfillment and other life-affirming contrasts like that are most discernable, as is the maturation of the “tintinnabulation” most prevalent in the music of this iconic composer.
The Symphonies are given a fittingly intense performance by NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, and Tõnu Kaljuste. This passion is captured in the breathtaking ambience of the whisper-soft and build-up of dynamics and contrasting sonorities characteristic in Pärt’s music. Much of the timeless quality of these works derives not only from the apparent simplicity, but also from the fact that in Pärt’s compositions harmony rarely modulates. And it is this – and the phrases so beautifully moulded by the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic that mark this recording. It’s hard to imagine a more radiant and enraptured performance than the one that these works get from this philharmonic expertly guided through by Tõnu Kaljuste.
Released – 2018
Label – ECM New Series
Runtime – 1:19:22