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Part: Tabula Rasa


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Genre: Jazz Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
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Release Date: 16-NOV-1999

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This seminal disc now almost seems like the manifesto for a whole new strain of minimalism that has found an enormously receptive audience. It represented a breakthrough for Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, whose music--like that of his European colleagues John Tavener and Henryk Górecki--pursues an austerely beautiful simplicity that suggests spiritual illumination. Fratres, given here in two versions, one for piano and violin and the other for 12 cellos, repeatedly intones a sequence resembling chant to convey a sensibility that seems at once archaic and beyond time. Violinist Gidon Kremer, for whom Pärt wrote the exquisitely contemplative and hypnotic title work, grasps the music's koan-like idiom, allowing an inner fullness to resonate through the most fragile, ethereal wisps of tone against the mysterious clangings of prepared piano. The tolling of the tubular bells in Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Brittenis an emotionally charged lament, based on a simple minor descending scale, that introduces Pärt's fascination with what he calls "tintinnabulation": the literal and metaphorical sound of ringing bells. This recording is also famous for the acoustically warm presence produced by ECM's Manfred Eicher, which magnificently captures the mystical simplicity of Pärt's sound world. --Thomas May

Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM Records
  • ASIN: B0000262K7
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,683 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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119 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Forbes on August 17, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Arvo Part has become a marketing phenomenon in the last ten years or so and as such has become in a sense a victim of his own success. As more and more recording companies churn out endless reworkings of Fratres and Tabula Rasa, it can be hard to remember the stunning impact that this music had when it first came out. To me, this CD shows Part at his most fresh, in performances that have yet to be matched.
The two versions of Fratres are really completely different pieces using the same harmonic progressions. In the violin and piano duet, the chord progression is used for a series of variations that range from the mystical to the passionate. Keith Jarrett and Gidon Kramer play this music magnificently. The version of Fratres for 12 solo celli is marvelous. The work is based on a simple modal chord progression which gradually builds to a crescendo and then fades away to nothing. Each interation of the chord progression is separated by an almost inaudible drone, as if silence were resounding.
The Cantus is the first of Part's canonic style. Simple material (a desending minor scale) is unfolded in various tempi, creating the feeling of bells. The work is beautiful, but doesn't grab me as much as other Part pieces. For my ear, it can seem a little contrived.
The standout on the album is Tabula Rasa, a double concerto for two violins and chamber orchestra, including prepared piano. The first movement alternates fast paced arpeggiated material with bell like sounds on the prepared piano. The effect is one of gradually building tension, relieved by the disapation of energy in the points of stillness. The second movement is a long, slow movement based on rising and falling scales in the violins, and the gradual thinning out of texture. The movement is deeply moving.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A. Singh on January 7, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This music feels to me like the composers conversation with and prayer to his god. I first heard it in the late '80s on an ECM compilation, and was driven to buy the complete recording. The compositions are spare, but the space between the sounds are as full of music as the notes themselves. The performance seems driven by the music, in a way a that makes me long for more recordings performed during the lives of the composers. There is a more recent recording conducted by Neeme Järvi, which while quite beautiful is not as moving as this one. I strongly reccomend this to all.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This CD started it all. In 1984 it introduced the then little known Arvo Pärt to a new western audience. Pärt had long before made his "tinntinnabulation" discovery (around 1976). Before this pivotal epiphany, the majority of Pärt's work fell into the serialist category. His early work shows all of the grinding atonal experimentation of the 1950s. It thus lies in stark contrast to his later work as presented on this CD (he shares this same evolutionary path with the Polish composer Górecki).

"Tabula Rasa" introduced a new music and a new style to the west. This music doesn't follow traditional harmonic or melodic forms. Listening to Pärt differs from listening to Sibelius or Stravinski. In Pärt, environment and setting are everything. The melodies and harmonies function to set a mood rather than to follow a path or a harmonic progression leading to an ultimate resolution. Subsequently, one experiences rather than listens to Pärt's work. The notes merely provide the structure. In this way Pärt's pieces represent frameworks for music (which probably explains, as related in the CD booklet, why the members of one orchestra asked "where is the music" upon seeing the score for "Tabula Rasa"). So Pärt not only presents beautiful and moving music but also helps listeners conceive of it in new ways.

The tracks on this CD provide the perfect showcase for Pärt's work. Beginners should start here. Two versions of the meditative "Fratres" appear, but each utilize such different arrangements that they sound like two separate works. "Cantus" remains one of Pärt's most moving compositions. It sounds like a slowly exploding wall of catharsis.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bob on August 11, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
In the CD's booklet, Part is quoted as having a discussion with a monk, one of the "fratres" of the twin pieces on this CD, in which he tells the monk that, as his contribution to the world, he writes prayers and sets psalms to music. The monk tells him, "No, you are wrong. All the prayers have already been written. Now you have to prepare yourself."

After "Credo" in 1968 - which his Soviet masters banned - Part descended into a period of silence, but arose, newly-prepared, in 1976 with "Fur Alina" and the pieces that make up this CD. Now he had hit upon a new style, the "little bells" sound which he calls "tintinnabulation".

I do not know what drew Part to this minimalist and religious sound, but I can picture a grievously wounded mankind crawling out from the wars of the first half of the 20th century, enchained in the moral and substantial poverty of totalitarianism in Part's homeland, a Baltic former "captive nation". What music befits this humanity, who cannot dance, can barely move - with luck, can take a few tiny, quiet steps toward hope? This is the music. However, the Christian Part does not believe that we must all suffer to be redeemed. He says that "the Apostles [could] have lived in the Soviet Union... But it is not absolutely necessary for people to live under such conditions. Perhaps it is more important for something to happen within us." He took the monk's advice to heart.

Thus "Alina", and also this "Tabula Rasa" collection: something happened within Arvo Part, and, through the medium of the extraordinary musicians here, an echo of that reaches the listener. This is first of all spiritual music.
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