Pärt: Triodion (CD Review - The Daily Telegraph, 2003)

This collection, a sequel to Polyphony’s all-Pärt CD for Hyperion, brings together choral music composed from 1996 to 2002. The period marked a widening of the range of languages Pärt set, and also a warming of his tonal colouring, compared with the cooler, sparer sound-world of his classic Latin settings, such as the St John Passion.

Several of the works were British ecclesiastical commissions and the English language predominates, with the disc centring on Triodion, a setting of three odes written for Lancing School in Sussex.

There is a setting of words by John Henry Newman (Littlemore Tractus), a rather precious response to Robert Burn’s My heart’s in the Highlands for countertenor and organ, and two biblical pieces with English texts, I am the True Vine and … which was the Son of …, Pärt’s setting of a text made for “holy minimalist” such as he is, the geneology of Christ. There is also music to Italian and Latin words, Dopo la vittoria, on the baptism of St Augustine, a radian Nunc demittis and, to end, a warmly responsive Salve regina.

The singing on the disc is little short of stunning: Polyphony’s sense of ensemble is second to none, and conductor Stephen Layton paces these works with an unerring sense of Pärt’s instinctive feeling for space and texture.

The recording, in London’s Temple Church, adds a luminous aura of its own (though the organ gives a hum of air when it features), contributing to a deeply satisfying listening experience.

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