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Part: Passio

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 25, 2000
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You might expect that Pärt's meditative, detached style--with little distinction between consonance and dissonance, or overt emotion--wouldn't wear well through a 70-minute Passion in Latin without even a break between tracks. (Actually, there's just one.) The roles are distinguished only by scoring: the Evangelist's narration is taken by four singers and a few instruments in various combinations; Pilate is a deliberate tenor; Jesus, a cavernous bass singing very slowly. However, if you listen calmly and attentively, this work will transport you. When Jesus sings (slowly, on a simple five-note scale), "It is finished," and the Evangelist quartet intones on a single note, "And bowing his head he gave up the spirit," it's heartbreaking. The choir's huge crescendo through the final nine-word prayer is stunning. --Matthew Westphal
Song Title Time
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30
1:10:57 Album Only

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Hilliard Ensemble
  • Conductor: Paul Hillier
  • Composer: Arvo Part
  • Audio CD (January 25, 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM New Series
  • ASIN: B000026035
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,289 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Forbes on January 7, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Arvo Part has become something of a cottage industry now, with most of his pieces enjoying multiple recordings. The shorter works are especially friendly to new agers, with their quiet moods and sombre spiritual atmosphere. But at his most austere, Part is still a radical and more challenging than an mere aquaintance with works like Spiegel Am Spiegel would lead one to believe. His long works can be as sonically challenging as anything written in the past 50 years, even as they askew atonality, harsh dissonance and complex rhythm. In their very simplicity is their challenge.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
I hagve had this CD for a few years now, and it still amazes me with each listen. The work can be trying for over an hour, but if you stick with it, what a rewarding experience! The last 15 minutes are utterly heartbreaking. It'll bring a tear to your eye. It did to me. It's the only piece I've heard that makes me well up. Superb job by Arvo Pärt, and the Hilliard Ensemble yet again shows their aptitude for the music.
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Format: Audio CD
I have had this CD for years and it is utterly amazing.
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.
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As a fan of Arvo Pärt, I purchased this CD a couple of years ago. After listening to it a few times, I have concluded that it does not make good "background" music, nor does it lend itself well to casual listening. However, when actively listening to this composition in its entirety, I found it to be an excellent aid to meditation on the Passion of Christ. The text moves slowly enough to allow contemplation of each passage during the accompanying music. But this CD is not for everyone; if you seek something energetic, pass this one up and keep looking.
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The Estonian composer Arvo Part has composed in several styles during his 40-year career, but the most popular is his "tintinnabuli" style of the 1970s and 1980s, when he chose to turn away from the avant-garde towards the simpler, bell-like sonorities of medieval Western music and plainsong. Because of the frugal nature of the music, as well as the religious titles of many of his works of this time, this style has been called by some "holy minimalism". One of his most ambitious works of this era is his PASSIO or, to use its full title, "Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem".

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.
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