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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67375
Recording details: January 2003
Temple Church, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: September 2003
Total duration: 10 minutes 0 seconds

'a triumph … warm melodies and bursts of colourful chords … sublime, ethereal beauty … Polyphony's is a gorgeous performance' (Gramophone)

'Ought to sell by the bucket-load … more than any other composer alive today, Arvo Pärt has given us back the idea of eloquent, beautiful simplicity … Stephen Layton and Polyphony seem to have found an ideal balance of intensity and dignified elegance, of sensuousness and purity. The recordings, too, could hardly be better … this disc deserves the widest possible success' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The singing on this disc is little short of stunning: Polyphony's sense of ensemble is second to none, and conductor Stephen Layton paces these works with an unerring sense of Pärt's instinctive feeling for space and texture. The recording, in London's Temple Church, adds a luminuous aura of its own … a deeply satisfying listening experience' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Layton's superb choir responds eagerly to the different challenges of the various choral traditions from which these pieces derive … Polyphony give meticulous performances … perhaps the most powerful piece is the haunting Burns setting for countertenor, My heart's in the highlands, beautifully performed by David James and Christopher Bowers-Broadbent' (The Sunday Times)

'The heartfelt conviction of these pieces registers profoundly with Stephen Layton, who draws sublime singing from Polyphony … The choir's pursuit of perfection ideally complements the sheer beauty of the music' (Classic FM Magazine)

'this Polyphony recital has been carefully thought-out, and deserves the accolades, notably for the quiet singing and the engulfing, resonant sound. Notes are excellent, and the experience would probably, for 78 minutes, make a believer of an asteroid' (Fanfare, USA)

'Only the most pure and precise of choral groups can raise Arvo Pärt's work to its optimum level of expression. Polyphony and its conductor Stephen Layton make ideal interpreters' (Financial Times)

'There's a line in this disc's title track, from an Orthodox ode addressed to Saint Nicholas: "therewithal hast thou acquired: by humility—greatness, by poverty—riches". This might have been written about Arvo Pärt's compositional technique, here liberated from the minimalist strictures of earlier decades, treading a fine line between agony and ecstasy in a way unparalleled since Bach … Arvo Pärt's new disc of choral music conveys a quiet and cumulative power, given performances of luminous purity by Polyphony and Stephen Layton.' (BBCi)

Dopo la vittoria
author of text
Italian translations of History of Church Singers and Chants by Archbishop Philaret, St Petersburg, 1902

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
As Pärt admits in a (rare) note accompanying Dopo la vittoria, the search for a text is not necessarily easy or quick; it took six years for him to find the right one for a commission by the City of Milan’s Cultural Department. The fact that the commissioner, Sandro Boccardi, asked him a full six years in advance of the particular anniversary the work was to mark may have contributed to Pärt’s relaxed view on the deadline!

The anniversary in question, in 1997, was the 1600th since the death of Saint Ambrosius, and so Pärt initially turned to the St Ambrosius hymns. ‘For some reason’, he writes, ‘they did not inspire me to begin the composition in question. Gradually I grew to believe I was not able to fulfil this particular task without writing a completely new Te Deum’ (Ambrosius is credited with the authorship of the Te Deum laudamus text). Pärt continues:

I was still looking for the adequate text when by chance I discovered an old church music encyclopaedia written in Russian. In it I found the story of Ambrosius and the scene of St Augustinus’ baptism, performed by Ambrosius. This description fascinated me, and my decision was made promptly … So I used the unaltered Russian text [translated into Italian] and took its first line to become the title of the my work. Its phrasing, dating from the year 1903, sounded to me almost like a poem in prose. The depiction itself has the form of a short two-person scenario, Ambrosius baptizing Augustinus. What I found particularly special and unusual in this story is the fact that Ambrosius, whilst the ceremony was in full swing, began to sing his Te Deum, and Augustinus joined in, easily continuing the chant as if he had known it for ever. And by singing antiphonally they finished off the Te Deum. I was fascinated and deeply influenced by this scene, with two giants of Western culture and Christianity full of spontaneous joy and inspiration, and now felt able to accomplish the commissioned work for the City of Milano in a relatively short time.

So this ‘piccolo cantata’—premiered in Milan’s San Simpliciano Basilica in December 1997 by the Swedish Radio Choir and Tõnu Kaljuste—honours St Ambrosius with a narrative lightness that is relatively unique for Pärt. In contrast with the broader homogeneous sweep of many of his choral settings, this work is sharply defined by sections closely related to the text. The pulsing, staccato briskness of the opening and close suggest the urgent enthusiasm of a storyteller. The Un poco tranquillo section moves the story on at ‘It was two years later’. Low solo voices mark out with antique solemnity the words ‘An unknown early biography of Augustine writes’, followed by equally reverential, organum-like parallel tenor and bass writing. And at three climactic points, Pärt makes particular emphasis of the actual words from Ambrosius’s famous religious text: ‘Te Deum laudamus’ early on, the Italian equivalent a little later (‘Lodiamo Te o Signore’), and the Te Deum’s final verse, ‘In Te, o Signore, ho posto la mia’—a passage as majestic and affirmative as the ‘Amen’ that follows is exquisitely sonorous.

from notes by Meurig Bowen © 2003

Other albums featuring this work
'Pärt: Triodion & other choral works' (CDA30013)
Pärt: Triodion & other choral works
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £8.50 CDA30013  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series  
'Pärt: Triodion & other choral works' (SACDA67375)
Pärt: Triodion & other choral works
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67375  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
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