Arvo Pärt on BR Klassik

Part- Miserere [Various] [Br Klassik - 900527]
4 of 5 stars


Which Was the Son of …
Festina lente
The Deer’s Cry
Tribute to Caesar
And I heard a voice…

Anna-Maria Palii (soprano), Benno Schachtner (alto), Andrew Lepri Meyer & Moon Yung Oh (tenors), Thomas Hamberger (bass)
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Münchner Rundfunkorchester österreichisches ensemble für neue music
Howard Arman

Recorded between May and November 2020 in Munich and Salzburg

Reviewed by: David Truslove

Reviewed: March 2021
CD No: BR KLASSIK 900527
Duration: 72 minutes



This is only the second recording of Arvo Pärt’s Miserere in thirty years and benefits from a brighter ambience than the first made by the Hilliard Ensemble (ECM) in 1990. This release comprises studio performances in Munich and a live take of the Miserere by Austrian Radio in an empty concert hall in Salzburg, an occasion originally planned to celebrate the composer’s 85th birthday.

The Bavarian Radio Chorus’s longstanding relationship with Pärt began with Passio in 1982. Its chaste sonorities were tailor-made for the Hilliard Ensemble for whom Pärt discovered the ideal vehicle for his ascetic style to which these German singers respond with flawless blend and intonation.  

These qualities are readily apparent in the first of four unaccompanied settings: Which Was the Son of   explores (via St Luke’s Gospel) the genealogy of Jesus through the lineage of Mary. His seventy-six forbears are crisply enunciated, names thrown around between voice groups and culminate in a striking polyphonic passage that needs greater vocal brilliance to be truly climatic. In Tribute to Caesar, Arman steers a well-judged path between too-smooth chordal declamation and one overly emphatic, Pärt’s emotionally detached manner seemingly at odds with the intrigue between Christ and the Pharisees. The ancient prayer of St Patrick, The Deer’s Cry, is rendered with exquisite control, and while there is plenty of warmth in And I heard a voice, sung in Part’s native Estonian, the unvarying dynamics of this Revelations text diminish the consoling purpose behind this lament. 

By far the most compelling performance is the Miserere (1989), a work scored for five soloists (carrying words from Psalm 51), chorus (the thirteenth-century Latin hymn Dies irae) and instrumental ensemble, in this case the österreichisches ensemble für neue musik. The work’s emotional power might seem almost inconceivable to anyone who looks merely at the bare and unpromising notes on the page. A sense of the confessional emerges from the opening stillness where a tenor soloist and a lone clarinet both enjoy pitch-perfect tuning. Subsequent layers of solo voices and instrumental pairings unfold with easy assurance and build to a terrifying image of the ‘Day of Wrath’. Its complex metre is smoothly negotiated, with electric guitar and tubular bell pricking the ear amid the onslaught of wind and brass. From there on it’s a performance of sustained tension the spirt of Lent fully realised with performers bringing as much care and devotion to their individual, often singular, notes as Pärt bequeaths to his mathematically conceived ordering of pitches and haunting silences. 

Two string-orchestra works fill up the disc: Festina Lente (strings and harp) and Sequentia (violin, strings and percussion); quiet austerity underpinned by rigorous technique and executed by the Munich Radio Orchestra with absolute refinement.Overall, these are first-class performances that makes this a significant release. Text and translations are included in the booklet.

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