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4.8 out of 5 stars
Arvo Part: Te Deum
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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2000
This is probably the finest disc of Arvo Part's music yet released, distilling his sublime mastery in powerful performances of just four of his recent works. Two of the works bring together voices and orchestra. The eponymous piece, "Te Deum" itself, is the longest and is by turns warm and chilling; Part seems to be projecting a love and fear of God all at once. The use of prepared piano and windharp enriches the intricately-wrought accompaniment, whilst the voices soar through it like stars shining through mist on a winter night. The "Berliner Messe," frequently performed in Chester Cathedral near me, is a similar piece. Accompanied here by strings, it too has moments of joy and serenity interspersed with some of the most haunting harmonic language ever written - the "Agnus Dei" being a prime example.
In addition, each group of performers gets a shot at something alone. The choir performs "Magnificat," definitely one of Part's finest ever choral pieces, with a greater flexibility than on most previous recordings (thus making it more compelling in its own way). This short choral piece is perfectly partnered with "Silhouan's Song" for orchestra, which speaks from the very opening of wintry European landscapes, cold and unforgiving, in which a prayer is made by the lonely soul. It's a pity that this disc has no programme notes (just fancy pictures of the composer and the performers taken during the recording sessions) but the music speaks for itself, especially in the hands of Part's fellow Estonian performers. If you only ever buy one Arvo Part recording, this really should be it.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2000
I concur with Mr. Swinton below that this is probably the best of his ECM New Series releases to date. It is so for me because it contains the single greatest composition of Part's entire repertoire delivered as the greatest performance of any of those compositions, the nearly half-hour long "Te Deum". Whereas most of Arvo Part's music is consumed with the experience of grief and suffering held in almost medieval suspension, Te Deum relates that deep introspective sadness with an emergent, hard-fought-for serenity and it does so with a dramatic momentum that is lacking from most everything else he has written, with a few less potent exceptions. The Berliner Mass contains the same minor/major key trade-offs but serves a purely liturgical, that is, prayerful function. The other two selections have that familiar, grim, meditative quality perfectly suited for private lamentation. But "Te Deum" is the real catharsis here, as it meaningfully contextualizes all of the suffering Part has expressed in many albums in just one, simultaneously timeless and time-bound, choral masterpiece. A hundred auditions (at least) in six years has not diminished its poetic magnificence or its healing impact.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2001
A truly remarkable album, for despite the fact that these are religious pieces, they transcend all theological, philosophical and social boundaries and testify to music's unique capacity for pure spirituality. Te Deum contains a sublime mix of choral solemnity and orchestral majesty, effortlessly shifting between moments of barely audible intimacy and invigorating crescendos without sounding the least bit contrived or pompous. The melodic and harmonic elements are masterfully counterpoised, providing music that has a special resonance within contemporary culture while retaining a quintessentially timeless quality. This is easily Arvo Pärt's finest album, and the best place to start if you have not yet discovered his unique compositional voice.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2001
I bought this from a record club on the strength of the blurb, but had no idea what to expect. I popped it into the CD player one winter Saturday and when the first notes sounded, I was hooked. I think I listened to the whole thing straight through while perched on the edge of the sofa, and to this day I can't explain why I had tears rolling down my face, but I did. And that's the strength of Part's work - there is a dignity and a deep, deep passion in the music that echoes in your bones.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2002
For a few months after this disc was released, it seemed that every Sunday morning I would play it - OK, I confess - while drinking coffee and reading the New York Times. But its almost supernatural magic is hard to resist.

This program represents Part's work very well. His language is basically tonal, and a bit on the austere side, with clear influences from both medieval music and minimalism. Much of the music is slow-moving, thought-provoking, and meditative - no jagged, slashing rhythms here - and much of the time the dynamic levels are quiet.

The Estonian chorus is outstanding, singing with an almost otherworldly glow that adds immensely to the atmosphere of the recording. Sound quality is good - perhaps slightly soft-focused, but it suits the program.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2005
About five years ago, a friend of mine had two copies of this CD and gave one to me. I knew nothing of Arvo Part, but am a big fan of both choral music and modern composition. The Te Deum instantly became one of my favorite all time compositions. Perfection. It's a brilliant realization of what church music should be in modern terms. I hear a lot of great modern "sacred" compositions, but there are few I find that evoke emotion while still maintaining reverence. Most are either rehashes of the familiar or composers who branch out to write a choral piece with little understanding of vocal music or care of if the piece is actually church worthy.

Part's Te Deum is chant meets minimalism (though he doesn't like the label) and is avant garde but still accessible to a wide variety of tastes. As an added bonus, it is performed by an amazingly capable choir in an aurally gorgeous space. Do yourself a favor and set aside some time where you're not doing anything else for your first listen.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I have no idea why I first selected this CD while browsing in a store but I have since used Amazon to order most of Arvo Part's recordings. I am not sure how you would select a favorite -- I would certainly not agree that this is among the worst! I would say it still ranks as one of my favorites. I also agree this music is not for the car! This is certainly for when you want to be contemplative. If you feel rushed and overwhelmed by contemporary life, put on a Part CD and close your eyes and stress will melt away. This music is a ticket to timelessness and peace. Who would have thought a modern composer could have found a way to out do the Medievals this way? Progress has not stopped nor has it ignored our spiritual side.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2006
My opinion of much of the spiritual minimalist music that may be criticised as dull, boring, incomplete, or whatever adjective you care to insert, is that unlike the "great" music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc, this spiritual music requires you to bring something to it to have meaning. Anyone can listen to Mozart and get pretty much the same thing from it because it's perfect and complete. There's nothing more to add. And that's why I can't stand it. Like vanilla ice cream, the great German masters serve as nothing but a center for music to expand away from.

However, where one can put on Silouans Song and hear a dull film score, others can meditate on the music and be moved beyond words. The "inaudible" Berliner Messe concludes with the Agnus Dei. I will never escape the memory of listening to the piece at night under the stars next to a high alpine lake in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Agnus Dei section is as cold as ice, as bare as outer space, and with the Dona Nobis Pacem it melts, while keeping the melodic line of the first section, into the most comforting, heart-warming music. Atheist that I am, I can't help but feel that I'm not alone. Listen to it under the stars in the wilderness.

The major work, the Te Deum, is incredible in its own way. You cannot hear the music begin, but gradually become aware of what I assume is a piano string being played with a mallet. The sound reappears throughout the work, and at the huge climax you feel almost as if airplanes are taking off in the church. The ending, repeated statements of "Sanctus", fades out in almost as beautiful a manner as the Agnus Dei of the mass ends. Almost, but not quite.

There isn't another living composer like Part, and this is one of the finest discs of his music.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2005
Arvo Part exhibits absolute mastery of sacred vocal writing. It is the culmination of a millenium of sacred music; as though Tallis, Byrd, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Faure and every other writer of sacred music had simply cleared the way for this man. Part assimilates you into his music in the opening passages and holds you in his powerful grip until after the last phrases have been uttered.

The glory is not given only to the voices, either. These works are also scored for strings and some of the most beautiful passages are given over to them. Dissonance is used throughout in all voices with terrifying beauty and brings to mind what it may be like to behold the presence of God Himself. There are many stunning climaxes that resolve the discord throughout the work - everyone infinitely satisfying and never dull. These are truly works of awe-inspiring proportions, particulary the Te Deum and this does them justice. It will lift your mind and heart and never cease to amaze.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2003
Althought this is coming from someone who does not listen to too much "classical" music, I felt the need to say something.
10 minutes ago i was in my room, weeping. "Credo" shot through my heart so fiercely...
Just listen...
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