Along with Fratres
, Tabula Rasa
is easily the most popular instrumental composition that Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has ever penned. It's no wonder, either. This swirling double concerto for violins, string section, and piano is crammed with sonic drama, as well as quiet moments, making it the perfect showpiece for the composer's meditative tintinnabuli
style of composition. Violinists Leslie Hatfield and Rebecca Hirsch deliver an electrifying performance of this work that easily stands alongside interpretations by Gidon Kremer (to whom this piece was dedicated) and others. Compared with Kremer's recordings
, the prepared piano sounds a bit muted here, but this is a minor qualm--the violins and Ulster Orchestra steal the show. Going back in time, Collage uber BACH
dates from 1964 and shows us how far Pärt's compositional style has evolved over the decades. Dense string textures give way to brief allusions of Bach, though the piece is thoroughly indebted to serialism. Symphony No. 3 from 1971 is one of the composer's lesser-recorded masterpieces, which is a shame because it shows the composer at a crossroads, incorporating elements of modernism, Gregorian chant, and polyphony. The resulting work sounds epic, gripping, and reflective, but ends with an unexpected last gasp of excitement.
Pärt fans won't need much convincing to buy this disc; these are great performances. But every classical CD collection should have at least one disc by the master of "holy minimalism" (and so much more), and this budget-priced disc is just about the perfect introduction to the composer's instrumental works. --Edward Garabedian