Pärt: Triodion (CD Review - BBC Music Magazine, 2003)

More than any other composer alive today Arvo Pärt has given us back the idea of eloquent beautiful simplicity. Granted, he can take his asceticism too far – sometimes numinous purity shades over into mere plainness. But with the exception of the creakily formulaic setting of My Hearts in the Highlands, that’s not the case with any of the works recorded here. Again and again there’s a sense of wonder and delight that so much can be achieved with such modest uncomplicated means. The yo-yoing effect as words are passed around the choir in I am the true vine could have been irritatingly naïve. Instead it’s quite mesmerising. A single shift of harmony in the Littlemore Tractus is like a sudden beam of light. Dopo la Victoria manages to be reverential and dancingly light-hearted at the same time. There’s even humour (not a quality that’s often ascribed to Pärt) in … which was the son of.. a setting of the interminable and rather dubious genealogy of Jesus in St Luke’s Gospel.

Of course, a lot depends on the performances. Stephen Layton and Polyphony seem to have found an ideal balance of intensity and dignified elegance, of sensuousness and purity. The recordings, too could hardly be better; a suitably spacious background acoustic, but with everything clearly in focus. This disc deserves the widest possible success.

Stephen Johnson


“…Back finally to CDs: one release that ought to sell by the bucket-load (even without a £6m signing) is the new recording of Pärt choral works by crack vocal group Polyphony under the directorship of Stephen Layton. It’s our disc of the month, and, as Stephen Johnson says, “Pärt has given us back the idea of eloquent, beautiful simplicity…this disc deserves the widest possible success.’”

Harriet Smith
Editor BBC Music Magazine

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