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In Principio CD

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Description

In Principio, was the first ECM Arvo Part disc in four years. The release celebrated the 25-year jubilee of ECM's New Series that was launched with Part's Tabula Rasa in 1984.

From the Artist

25 years ago, in 1984, Arvo Pärt's Tabula rasa launched ECM's New Series. The recording indeed marked a new beginning and not only for Pärt's work, providing impulses for contemporary composition at many levels. The power of Pärt's music, moreover, underlined by the conviction of his religious feeling, struck a chord amongst listeners which continues to resonate. As fellow composer Steve Reich has observed, Pärt's music of spiritual yearning seems to fulfill a human need.

In Principio, Pärt's new album, his eleventh for ECM, is both a continuation and a recording which posits fresh directions in his music, offers fresh colors. Four pieces, "In principio", "La Sindone", "Cecilia, vergine romana" and "Für Lennart in memoriam" are heard in première recordings. The album also revisits and revises important pieces. We hear a transformed "Da Pacem Domine", and a radically new version of "Mein Weg".

Performers are the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, under the inspired direction of Tõnu Kaljuste, long a staunch ally and committed advocate for the composer's work.

"In principio erat Verbum..." In the beginning was the word. The composition "In Principio" (2003) for mixed choir and orchestra begins with the famous line that opens the Gospel of St John, and sets its first fourteen verses. It is a work that seems chiseled out of sound itself, the hallmarks of Pärt's powerful - and timeless - musical signature immediately apparent. The work is dedicated to Kaljuste (as was "Kanon Pokajanen", a decade ago).

"La Sindone" (2005) for orchestra, addresses the enigma of the Holy Shroud said to bear the imprint of Christ's face. Its history can be traced back with certainty as far as the 14th century, but beyond that history blurs into myth. Legend has it that from Jerusalem the cloth was conveyed to Aleppo, Constantinople, Cyprus, Paris, Lirey and Chambery and finally Turin, where it has been preserved since 1578. Pärt's strongly evocative composition, imaginatively inspired both by the shroud's journey and its essential mystery, was premiered in Turin in 2006 (when it was played alongside "Cecilia, vergine romana" and "Da Pacem Domine").

"Cecilia, vergine romana" (2000, revised 2002) for mixed choir and orchestra, takes its text from the Roman Breviary, and tells the tale of the Roman maiden Cecilia (2nd century AD), who is said to have continued singing the praises of God even as she died a martyr's death. She is revered as the patron saint of musicians.

"Da pacem Domine" (2004) was first heard on ECM in the version for five singers a cappella (the Hilliard Ensemble plus Sarah Leonard) on Lamentate. Here we hear the version for mixed choir and orchestra. The musical point of departure for the piece, commissioned by Jordi Savall, was the ninth-century Gregorian antiphon, an intercession in the liturgy and in polyphony which many composers over the centuries have been inspired to set to music. Pärt began writing the piece two days after the Madrid train bombings of March 11, 2004, and the piece is dedicated to the victims of that terrorist action.

"Mein Weg" was written as a composition for organ in 1989, and recorded as such by Christopher Bowers-Broadbent for ECM on the album Trivium the following year. In 1994 Pärt prepared a version for strings and percussion. The piece is given a compelling, sinuously undulating and hypnotically-insistent performance here by the Tallinn players.

The program is completed by "Für Lennart in memoriam" a very still piece for the late Estonian president (and writer and film director) Lennart Georg Meri, a work premiered by the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra at Meri's funeral in 2006.

(For more information on the individual pieces and Pärt's oeuvre, please consult the CD booklet notes by Wolfgang Sandner.)

The album was recorded in Pärt's homeland in 2007 and 2008.

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Product Details

  • Performer: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
  • Orchestra: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
  • Conductor: Tonu Kaljuste
  • Composer: Arvo Part
  • Audio CD (March 3, 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: ECM Records
  • ASIN: B001O2BR5K
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,597 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By D. F. Wade on March 30, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Mr. Pärt's done it again. His latest release under the ECM New Series lable is brilliant, displaying some of his most mature and inspired work yet (which is saying something). There are six pieces here, four of them never before released, the other two new versions of previously released pieces.

The opening and titular piece, "In Principio", consists of five movements, clocks in at nearly twenty minutes, and is scored for choir and full orchestra. As his other pieces of the past several years that employed full orchestra have already shown and is here reinforced, Pärt is able to use the orchestra to great effect and color. It's a stirring piece, often sounding more overtly classical than many of his other pieces (classical in the Mozart, Beethoven, etc. sense). As another reviewer observed, it sometimes sounds like Mozart's Requiem, though I would add that its color and simple austerity keep it from sounding merely imitative, which it isn't.

"La Sindone", this time for orchestra alone, is a haunting piece of music. Over its fifteen minute running length, it establishes an ever more apparent sense of mystery and tension, building up to a climax before levelling off in an otherworldly E-flat chord for strings.

"Cecilia, vergine romana", up till now, could only be heard in snipets on the Pärt documentary, "24 Preludes for a Fugue", and those snipets indicated a sublimity that made this perhaps the most personally anticipated track on the album. It's a beautiful piece, culminating in a magnificent finale.

"Da Pacem Domine" was first heard on the 2005 release "Lamentate", where it was beautifully arranged for a small vocal ensemble. But here, it's scored for a larger ensemble, and string accompaniment.
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On first listen the performance sounded an amalgamation of Mozart Requiem, Glass's Mishima soundtrack and Barber. What impresses is the combinations of what should be opposing elements. It is both somber and yet unceasingly energetic. The pieces are melodic, but also display the unfurling of sequenced repetition. Maybe the fundamental dichotomy that underlies and propels the work is the use of modern stasis technique to color an homage to basic european tradition. This is music that must be attended; it may display the usual ECM warm sonics, but it is hardly ambient in nature. This is the premiere of a serious concert; formal wear optional.
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Though now the name of Arvo Pärt has become a household name in the field of contemporary classical music, few will be unable to deny that this particular CD, IN PRINCIPIO, is one of the finest recordings of the spectrum of the works of this Estonian composer. Often CDs that select certain works to fill out the time frame of a CD will pay little attention to the 'filler': on this recording there is no filler to be found. True, the huge work on this CD is the title work, a work for large orchestra and mixed chorus, a nearly half hour of sheer ecstasy. Based on the scripture 'In the beginning was the word...' Pärt grounds this solemn piece with a deep bass emergence form the orchestra, couples that with the very appropriate choral statement that lies on one plane, uttering the holy words, while the orchestra seethes below the vocal line. Some may find traces of other composers' works - quotational themes so to speak - but that only serves to heighten the interest create by this magnum opus. This work performed by the Tallin Chamber Orchestra; Estonian Symphony Orchestra; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tõnu Kaljuste conducting, is well worth the purchase of this recording. The sound is spacious, as it must be, and the choral work never approaches the surface in less than a beautiful quality of tone.

There are other works of chorus and orchestra which are stunningly atmospheric - 'Da pacem Domine', here heard for the first time in the accompanied version (the original work was an a cappella piece, and the 'Caecilia, vergine romana' written for the celebration of the jubilee of Rome in 2000.
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Every track on this recording is a pleasant and wonderful surprise. Part has produced a modern masterpiece! He is fresh, spiritual, sometimes almost elusive - carrying your mind to new places and beautiful vistas within your heart. One has to experience this recording and live its many triumphs!
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I read about Arvo Pärt in Paste magazine, in which I usually learn about the latest in new music. So I was a bit surprised by them including a review of what sounded like classical music.

Yes, "In Principio" is choral music, sort of classical and all that. But it's so much more at the same time. Pärt has said that his music "is similar to light going through a prism: the music may have a slightly different meaning for each listener, thus creating a spectrum of musical experience, similar to the rainbow of light."

This is not "cleaning-your-house" music or something to have on in the background while you file stuff on your desk... this is music intended to be listened to through good headphones in a comfortable chair. It has so many layers and textures and harmonies and threads... I ordered a CD rather than a download because I want to make sure to get the liner notes and understand as much as I can about what is being played and sung. His latest album has five compositions about the Book of John, and he often dedicates music (requiems, mostly) to those killed through political injustice.

It is moving music. You have to listen to it several times before it really sinks in. It is indeed classical music, in that it is definitely not trendy. This is music for the ages. It speaks to your soul.
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