|WARNER CLASSICS / ERATO
Release Date: 30 October 2015
Format: LP Vinyl
|VARIOUS ARTISTS The Sound of Arvo Pärt Limited Vinyl LP
Arvo Pärt creates music of deceptive simplicity, and listening to his work can be a transformative experience. Imagine taking your ears on a retreat, and you’re some way to understanding why his work is so popular. The Estonian composer underwent his own transformation in the 1970s, having explored dense avant-garde music in the early part of his career. He put himself through an eight-year creative exile, and emerged with a new, purer voice. The Arvo Pärt that many people are devoted to today (including R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Björk) creates music that cleanses. A sonic detox.
Spiegel im Spiegel (‘mirror in the mirror’), the most recognisable here, having been used widely in film, adverts and documentaries, evokes the endless reflections of an infinity mirror. Suspended over the piano’s limpid raindrops, there is a fragility to the violin line, a finely-scratched edge to the sound which elevates it above the mundane and into the divine. Because at any moment, that sound might break. It is as if the violinist is walking a tightrope between two very high towers on a still day – utter grace threatened by the greatest danger. Whilst Pärt himself follows the Russian Orthodox Church, his music is sacred without being religious, spiritual without being mawkish. It has been dubbed ‘holy minimalism’, but it is whatever you want it to be. There’s the hum of wine glasses, gongs, icy string sounds. There are ghostly traces of his homeland and his own invented style, ‘tintinnabuli’, the music of little bells. And it’s not all crystal-spun delicacy: Fratres has choppy, Romantic soul, and Tabula Rasa is darkly turbulent at times. Arvo Pärt’s work is at times deliciously easy to listen to, but only simple on the surface. Think of a canvas with very few colours and lines, meticulously thought-out – something from the De Stjil movement or a Barnett Newman. He allows you to really listen, and like the best art, allows you to look at yourself. The composer compares his music to white light – containing all possible colours and the listener being the prism which can divide it. In the days of mindfulness colouring books for adults, and where we all need apps to drag us away from our own smartphones, this is a direct solution. Even if you’re in the heart of a city, Pärt’s music can transport you to a beautiful, shadowed space, or barefoot in a forest, or somewhere else entirely. He can take you wherever you want to go.
1. Spiegel im Spiegel - Tasmin Little
2. Fratres (Version 1980) - Tasmin Little
3. Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell - Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Richard Studt
1. Tabula rasa for two violins, string orchestra and prepared piano: Ludus (with movement) - Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Richard Studt/Tasmin Little/Robert Aldwinckle
2. Tabula rasa for two violins, string orchestra and prepared piano: Silentium (without movement) - Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Richard Studt/Tasmin Little/Robert Aldwinckle