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Arvo Pärt
Selection and commentary by Andrew James Horton

CER's articles on Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and an extensive discography of CDs.

Most CDs are available through both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Since the two suppliers maintain their stocks independently, some CDs are only available through one of them.


Pärt of a Wider Picture
Kurt Mortensen (Vol 2, No 27, 2000)

The roots of Estonia's art music scene run deeper than just Pärt, Tüür and Tormis.

A Subtler Form of Suffering
Andrew James Horton (The New Presence, April 1999)

How Arvo Pärt's music of the spiritual evolved out of the apocalyptic.

Arvo Pärt-only CDs

Pärt's works are best experienced on recordings by the German ECM label, with whom the composer works closely. Quality is high in all respects, often including extensive liner notes in German and English, bi-lingual texts for settings and outer box packaging. In shops the retail price is usually high too, but through Amazon.com these CDs are no more expensive than less well-presented rivals (with the obvious exception of budget releases).

  • Kanon Pokajanen
    Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, ECM, 21654
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Pärt at his best in this large-scale work. Translated into English, the title means "Canon of Repentance" - haunting music of a man's soul laid agonisingly bare before God. A double CD with ECM's usual high production and presentation standards. Essential addition to any collection... but then they all are. Full price.
  • Tabula Rasa
    Kremer / Jarrett / Davies et al, ECM, 21275
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    This was the first Pärt CD to hit the market and it is still exceedingly popular. And rightly so. It concentrates on the ground-breaking instrumental works of the mid-1970s. The CD features two versions of Fratres - including its most sublime version for 12 cellos - and star performances from Keith Jarrett, Gideon Kremer and even the composer Alfred Schnittke on prepared piano. Highly recommended starting point for Pärt virgins. Full price.

  • Miserere
    Hilliard Ensemble et al, ECM, 21430
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    As well as the formidable title track, this contains a short instrumental piece Festina Lente and a highly effective work for four voices, drums and organ - Sarah was Ninety Years Old. Full price.
  • Litany + Psalom + Trisagion
    Hilliard Ensemble et al, ECM, 21592
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    One vocal piece and two for chamber orchestra. Full price.
  • Passio
    The Hilliard Ensemble, ECM, 21370
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem to give it its full title. To my mind, Pärt is always at his best working on a larger scale, such as here. Full price.
  • Arbos
    The Hilliard Ensemble et al, ECM, 21325
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Arbos, An den Wassrn zu Babel, Pari Inervallo, Es Sang vor Langen Jahren, Summa, Stabat Mater, De Profundis, Arbos. Curiously, the opening and closing tracks are identical. Full price.
  • I Am the True Vine
    Pro Arte Singers / Theatre of Voices, Harmonia Mundi, 907242
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
  • Te Deum
    Tonu Kaljuste, ECM, 200003
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Another sumptuous ECM package, featuring: Te Deum, Silouan's Song, Magnificat, Berliner Messe. Full price.
  • Fratres + Festina lente + Summa etc
    Tamas Benedek, Naxos, 553750
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    The increasingly adventurous Naxos label thrives on slashing prices whilst preserving production standards, using (high-quality) orchestras and performers from the former Communist countries to reduce costs. If you like Pärt's famous Fratres, then this CD contains six different versions of this introspective and meditative piece. Budget.
  • Symphonies 1, 2 + 3, Cello Concerto
    Helmerson/Jarvi, BIS, 434
    (from Amazon.com)
    Some earlier works here, written before Pärt had found his trademark style of simplicity and spirituality. An intriguing insight into how the composer found himself. For the dedicated fan. Full price.
  • Sanctuary
    Various, Virgin Classics, 45314
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)

    With eight pieces, this CD crams in representative works from just about every stage of his development in his popular phase. Of course, in the process, large-scale works are ignored. A sort of "Arvo Pärt's Greatest Hits" album. Full price.

  • Beatus
    Kaljuste/Estonian Philharmonic Choir, Virgin Classics, 45276
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Estonian music performed by Estonians with: De Profundis, Cantate Domino, Solfeggio, Seven Magnifiact Antiphons, Missa Sillabica, Beatus Petronius, I Am the True Vine, Momento Mori Statuit ei Dominus. Full price.
  • Berliner Mass + Magnificat Antiphons etc
    Layton, Hyperion, 66960
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Berliner Messe, Seven Magnificat Antiphons, De Profundis, The Beatitudes, Magnificat, Credo, Annum per Annum. Full price.
  • Collage etc
    Neeme Jarvi, Philharmonia Orchestra, Chandos, 9134
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Collage sur B-A-C-H, Summa, Fratres, Wenn Bach die Bien gezuchtet hatte, Symphony No 2, Festina Lente, Credo. Full price.
  • De Profundis
    Paul Hillier / Theatre of Voices, Harmonia Mundi, 907182
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    De Profundis, Missa sillabica, Solfeggio, And One for the Pharisees, Cantate Domino, Summa, Seven Magnificat Antiphons, Magnificat. Full price.
  • Summa etc
    Kantorow / Tapiola Sinfonietta, BIS, 834
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Summa, Festina Lente, Fratres, Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, Tabula Rasa, Collage sur B-A-C-H. Full price.
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    Arvo Pärt with other Baltic composers

    Pärt's music is often pleasingly coupled with other Estonian or Baltic composers. The frequent contenders for such matches - Vasks, Tüür and Tubin - are all well worthy of interest in their own right.

  • Baltic Elegy
    Duke Quartet, Collins Classics, 1475
    (from Amazon.com)
    String quartets by Vasks and Tüür with one of the manifold arrangements of Pärt's most persistent work, Fratres. Full price.
  • Baltic Organ Music
    Ericsson, BIS, 561
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Works by Pärt, Ciurlionis and Vasks alongside lesser known Baltic composers, from the ever-interesting BIS label. Full price.
  • Searching for Roots
    Paavo Jarvi, Virgin Classics, 45412
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Searching for Roots, as well as being a title of an included piece by Tüür, is a good description of the selection. An early serialist piece by Pärt, from the days when serialism was frowned upon in the Soviet Union and his "Polyphonic" First Symphony in this selection of orchestral pieces. Full price.
  • Music from Estonia Vol 2
    Various, Chandos, CHA008656
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Estonian music under the baton of an esteemed Estonian conductor. Pärt is only represented by his five-minute Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten and the rest of the CD is more adventurously programmed, presenting pieces by less famed composers. Full price.
  • Seven Magnificat Antiphons etc
    BBC Singers, Collins Classics, 1472
    (from Amazon.com)
    Vocal works by Pärt and compatriot Tormis. Full price.
  • Chamber Music from Estonia
    Tallinn, BIS, 574
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Another selection of Baltic quartets this time from Tubin (three works) and Tüür and another recording of Fratres by Pärt in its string quartet form. Full price.
  • From My Home
    Kremer / Sacharov, Wea / Atlantic / Teldec, 14654
    (from Amazon.com)
    Pärt's omnipresent Fratres combined with a fine selection of well-known and obscure Baltic composers. Full price.
  • Dance of the Bacchae - Piano Music from the Nordic Countries
    Classico, 165
    (from Amazon.com)
    Just when you want Amazon to be at their best, they let you down. Woefully little information on this intriguingly titled compilation, although there are audio samples and track titles available, they neglect to list the composers. The CD does, though, include Pärt's Für Allina.
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    Arvo Pärt with other Central and East European composers

  • Górecki + Pärt + Schnittke
    Turovsky / I Musici de Montreal, Chandos, 9590
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Górecki's fame still largely rests on his Third Symphony with its settings of fifteenth century liturgical texts, Polish folk songs and Gestapo cell graffiti (not on this disc). However, the growing interest in his other works is here represented by his Harpsicord Concerto, attractively coupled with Pärt's Tabula Rasa and, an absolutely essential addition to every collection of modern classical music, Schnittke's snook-cocking Concerto Grosso No 1. Full price.
  • Baltic Canticles
    Chamber Choir Versija, BMG, 48798
    (from Amazon.com)
    Baltic for these purposes includes Russia and Poland with works by Schnittke and Górecki. Baltic composers in the narrower sense of the term include Vasks and Ciurlionis, as well as Pärt himself, represented by Seven Magnificat Antiphons. Full price.
  • Górecki: Sonata No 1 etc; Pärt: Für Alina etc
    (from Amazon.com)
    The 5-minute piano piece Für Alina was the first piece Pärt wrote after a period in the stylistic wilderness. Composed for a sick young girl, the score ends with an ornamental picture of a flower for the dedicatee.
  • Ikos - Górecki + Tavener + Pärt
    Cleobury / King's College, Emi Classics, 55096
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Ancient and modern mixing in this selection of vocal work sung by a world-famous choir. Tavener, a convert to the Russian Orthodox church, consolidated his international reputation when his music was played at Princess Diana's funeral. Pärt is represented by his Magnificat and the Beatitudes. Full price.
  • 20th-Century Russian Piano Music
    Vladimir Yurgin-Klevke, Russian Disc, 10015
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Not the most politically sensitive of titles for a CD which contains a work by an Estonian. Predictably, only a Russian label could manage such an affront. The other featured composers - Shostakovich, Gubaidulina and Shchedrin - are Russian enough though. Mid price.
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    Arvo Pärt books

  • Hillier, Paul;
    Arvo Pärt (1997)
    (from Amazon.com), (from Amazon.co.uk)
    Study of Pärt's works and life by a man who has recorded much of his music.
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    See also:

    Latest update by Andrew James Horton

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