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Part's St. John Passion is probably his masterwork. Written early in his tintintabulation style (the slow, bell like sonorities and block chords for which he has become famous) this work was produced before the style became too stultifying, while the inspiration was still fresh. Those looking for a dramatic Passion in the tradition of Bach would do best to look elsewhere. (Penderecki would be a good choice. Or James MacMillan's Triduum orchestral series.) Part takes his inspiration from earlier musical dramatizations of the Passion, at times drawing from the tradition of medieval liturgical drama and the passions of Heinrich Schutz. As a result, the work is austere, as were those earlier works, more meant for a worship service than the concert hall. The Evangelist sections are sung by a quartet accompanied by a varying chamber ensemble. Their music resembles nothing so much as the music from Satie's Socrate. It's very lack of passion heightens the emotion of the entire work. Peter, Pilate and Jesus are sung by baritone, tenor, and bass soloists respectively. Jesus' music is particularly effective, slowing down with each utterance on the cross.Read more ›
This music is contemporary classical music at its best, and is accessable by everyone. I have even had a couple friends that are total hiphop junkies just wig out when they heard it the first time, then come back and say... hey can I borrow that CD..
And this music is fantastic for those long road trips where you want to zone out a bit driving through the desert.
A bit of analysis....
Parts minimalistic approach is incredible.
The performace by the Hillard Ensemble is flawless. The bass voice potraying jesus...I can't even say, it is that good.
The simple changes with the chorus singing for ages in a-minor only to hear interjections by the Angry mob in e-major (V) is intense, and by far that is Parts talent at its heart. Building a musical experience that is haunting.. enjoyable... unfamiliar and can do more with a I-V or I-IV chord progression than any other composer I have ever heard.
The 4 part chorus is an incredible mix, it has either 1 (if 2 voices) or 2 (if 4 voices) people singing standard gregorian chant for the dialogue, while the other voice does a simple but unfamiliar (in vocal music) semi random arpeggiation over an a-minor chord. When I saw the simplicity on paper, I couldn't possibly believe how effective it sounds in the recording due to voice line crossovers and strange timbres created by this.
Even when you have seen the music infront of you, the sound is unfamiliar and intense. Parts music is a beautiful puzzle that even when laid out infront of you still amazes.
I cannot highly enough recommend this CD.
By the way, the Te Deum cd is another that will forever be at the top of my cd rack.
The PASSIO is a straightforward setting of the Latin (Vulgate) text of St John's Gospel. However, those expecting to hear a St John's Passion classical like Bach's or fresh and modern like Sofia Gubaidulina's will be surprised. Part has looked far into the past, further back than Bach, and produced a work reminiscent of Gregorian chant. This 60-minute work is a single track and sung uninterrupted, and the first thing that will strike the listener is its smooth and seemingly unchanging veneer. The six vocalists--Jesus, Pilate, and a quartet representing the Evangelist, sing with total sincerity but no urgency in order to let the listener form his own private relationship to his crucified Saviour out of the presented words. Each of the singers is accompanied by certain instruments, Jesus and Pilate by organ, while the Evangelist quartet by violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon.
I have been hard on Part's oeuvre during this period. Popular works like "Tabula Rasa" and "Cantus" are supposed to be "spiritual", but they communicate no clear religious orthodoxy and the listener hears whatever he wants to in it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you know anything about Arvo Part, then you would know that a composition like St. John Passion shouldn't be taken lightly. Read morePublished on November 15, 2012 by Eric S. Kim
One is never sure what to expect when listening to contemporary music. I am into contemporary art music of all types (Ligeti, Nono, Schoenberg, etc.). Read morePublished on November 20, 2005 by George Tsouris
For a more detailed comment for begginers, read my review to the Candomino Choir recording. Simply stunning work. Read morePublished on October 3, 2005 by Leonardo
This is arguably the best artistic work of St. John's Passion I've ever heard. It's even better if you've just heard Bach's version and then listen to this one. Read morePublished on March 2, 2005 by WHQZ
How one reviewer could describe this piece as "breathtakingly beautiful," yet rate it one star is nonsensical. Go with the "breathtakingly beautiful. Read morePublished on December 14, 2004 by JoelB
If Pfizer could figure out how to put Arvo Part's music into a pill, they'd corner the market on sleeping aids. Read morePublished on January 24, 2002
Consumer-unfriendly, this account of Jesus' last few days is not something you will want to listen to more than once every few months or so. Read morePublished on March 12, 2001 by Gavin Wilson
Yes it is 70 minutes of the same textures reiterated over and over again with nary a moment of respite. Yes it is a neo-medieval noninterpretive stoical approach to liturgy. Read morePublished on February 17, 2001 by Justin Weaver