Part: Tabula Rasa
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Genre: Jazz Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
Release Date: 16-NOV-1999
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
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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.
Gidon Kremer, Part's fellow Balt and an incredible player, has a visceral grasp of Part's work - in fact, Part says that Kremer suggested the form of Tabula Rasa to him. To have Kremer share one version of "Fratres" with Keith Jarrett on piano is ... well, not to be missed. Jarrett is a musician whose own feeling comes across in his playing, as Part's comes through his composing. Putting Jarrett to work on this CD is an example of ECM's interest in the creativity they can breed by mixing their artists.