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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Arvo Pärt - Symphony No. 3; Tabula rasa; Fratres (Neeme Järvi)


Composer: Arvo Pärt
  1. Fratres, for violin, string orchestra and percussion
  2. Tabula rasa: 1. Ludus: Con moto
  3. Tabula rasa: 2. Silentium: Senza moto
  4. Symphony No. 3: 1. attacca
  5. Symphony No. 3: 2. Più mosso - attacca
  6. Symphony No. 3: 3. alla breve

Gil Shaham, violin
Roger Carlsson, percussion
Adele Anthony, violin
Erik Risberg, prepared piano
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Date: 1999
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



This very beautiful disc features three of Arvo Pärt’s best orchestral pieces. My colleagues David Vernier and Robert Levine, who have reviewed most of the releases featuring the composer’s music, are both big vocal music specialists, and accordingly have focused on the choral works. Those, of course, are marvelous, and it could be argued that Pärt’s music for voices is superior to his purely instrumental output generally. Certainly I was not impressed by his Fourth Symphony, although it may sound better over time, feeling that much of it consisted of gestures that the likes of Alan Hovhaness and Lou Harrison have already done, and better too, but the Third Symphony manages to generate enough of the necessary symphonic drama while remaining audibly, idiomatically, Pärt. It’s superbly played here and conducted with complete confidence and sympathy by its dedicatee, Neeme Järvi.

The other two pieces are iconic works in the composer’s catalog, and it seems to me incontestable that Gil Shaham plays them both with greater tonal purity than Gidon Kremer on his ECM reference recordings, fine though his performances are. Fratres exists in zillions of different versions for every conceivable arrangement of solo string and something else, and here we have the one for violin, string orchestra, and percussion. Tabula Rasa, a sort of concerto for two violins, string orchestra and prepared piano, is indisputably a masterpiece of concentrated musical thought in which Pärt’s habit of repeating a simple idea with minor modifications produces a stunning essay in sustained tension and atmosphere. Just listen to the opening of the second movement, and marvel at how Pärt seems to say so much with such modest means. If you find the slender fund of basic material initially frustrating, as I did, stick with it. The music will gradually come to haunt your dreams.

That second movement incidentally has a subtitle, “Silentium” or “Silence”, and I have always felt that if a composer wants to express silence he should simply shut up and stop wasting our time, but this piece is the exception that proves the rule. Ignore the title and just listen. Splendidly played by Shaham and Adele Anthony, the work belongs in every serious collection, as does this release on the whole.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


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.


Neeme Järvi (born June 7, 1937 in Tallinn) is an Estonian conductor. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory under Yevgeny Mravinsky and Nikolai Rabinovich, among others. He made over 400 recordings for labels such as BIS, Chandos and Deutsche Grammophon and best known for his interpretations of Romantic and 20th century classical music. In 1982, he became the principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony, and held the post for 22 years, the longest-serving principal conductor in the orchestra's history.


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