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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Arvo Pärt - Choral Music (Stephen Layton)


Composer: Arvo Pärt
  1. Peace upon you, Jerusalem
  2. Morning star
  3. The woman with the alabaster box
  4. The deer's cry
  5. Virgencita
  6. Solfeggio
  7. Zwei Beter
  8. Tribute to Caesar
  9. Summa
  10. Memento (Ode VII from Kanon Pokajanen)
  11. Alleluia-Tropus
  12. Da pacem, Domine

Rachel Ambrose Evans, soprano (7)
Richard Bannan, bass (8)
Stephen Layton, conductor

Date: 2014
Label: Hyperion



It should be said, before anyone has the chance to object to the appearance of yet another disc of Pärt’s choral music, that this one is something special. In part this is because of the choice of repertoire, which mixes the familiar and the less-often heard, and includes two first recordings, and in part it is because of the exquisite sound produced by Polyphony.

The lesser-known pieces include Peace upon you, Jerusalem and Morning star, here given outstanding renditions that exploit the ensemble’s crystalline upper voices to perfection. Another of Polyphony’s strengths is their diction, and this is more than evident in their beautifully fluid and very moving renditions of the highly text-driven The woman with the alabaster box and Tribute to Caesar. Pärt’s setting of the Lorica of St Patrick, entitled The deer’s cry, is also text-driven but in a very different way, and what appears initially to be merely eccentric proves to be an extraordinarily profound and rich response to the words.

The hypnotic Virgencita, a prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe in Spanish, is altogether more curious – the melodic line of the first section irresistibly suggests a slowed-down tango – but its conclusion, the final iteration of ‘Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe’ is surely one of the composer’s most arresting conceptions. The other first recording is of the oddly titled Alleluia-Tropus. This is in fact a setting of the apolytikion to St Nicholas set in Slavonic, with the addition of the word ‘Alleluia’, meaning that it is not usable liturgically, and it was originally scored for choir and eight cellos. It’s as curious as Virgencita but has a similarly stunning climax. The disc ends with a wonderful rendition of Da pacem, Domine. Highly recommended.

-- Ivan Moody, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / RECORDING: *****


Arvo Pärt (born 11 September 1935 in Paide, Järva County, Estonia) is an Estonian composer of classical and sacred music. Pärt's music is in part inspired by Gregorian chant. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs his self-invented compositional technique, tintinnabuli. He is considered a pioneer of holy minimalism, along with Henryk Górecki and John Tavener. His most performed works include Fratres (1977), Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), and Für Alina (1976). Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world for five consecutive years.


Stephen Layton (born 23 December 1966) is an English conductor. He studied at Eton College, and then King's College, Cambridge as an organ scholar under Stephen Cleobury. Whilst studying at Cambridge, Layton founded the mixed-voice choir Polyphony in 1986. Layton has been Second Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia since 2010. Layton’s discography on Hyperion ranges from Handel and Bach with original instruments to Arvo Pärt. He has received awards such as two Gramophone Awards, Diapason d’Or and four Grammy nominations.


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  2. With all my thanks. Best Regards. Hémiole