ARVO PART |
"Da Pacem Domine"
In the liner notes for this album, Paul Hillier, on whose label Da Pacem
appears, poses some interesting questions. What, for instance, is the secular
and "worldy" listener to do when confronted with the intense religiosity
of this music? What happens to religious music when its context becomes the concert
hall rather than the cathedral? How does the nonbeliever reconcile the unavoidable
spiritual power of these perfectly set liturgical texts with his/her secular world
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your persuasion, one needn't
have the answers to these questions in order to appreciate the sublime beauty
of these compositions, but it is something to think about -- though "appreciate"
might be too light a word for music so overwhelming.
Da Pacem is
the third in a series of recordings of sacred choral music by Estonian composer
Arvo Part to appear on Hillier's Harmonia Mundi label, and here the imminent Part
interpreter leads the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with organist Christopher
Bowers-Broadbent, through nine compositions that span the last thirty years. After
an early career that explored most of the major trends of the European avant-garde,
Part withdrew from composing in the late '60s to study plainsong and early music,
and to rethink his relationship to composition (and everything else too, it would
seem). When he reemerged, nearly a decade had passed and his compositions took
a new direction heavily influenced by those traditions, but that also bore some
relation to the minimalism of the day. As always, Part's material here is deceptively
simple, with the choir usually arranged in two massed parallel voices that move
in small intervals against or echoing one another, often doubled by pipe organ.
This is a powerful record, and one that, like all great religious music, collapses
the boundaries between the spiritual, emotional, and aesthetic experience of music.