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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: 7 minutes 33 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)

Nunc dimittis
composer
2001
author of text
Luke 2: 29-32

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Pärt set the Magnificat text from St Luke’s gospel in 1989 for choral forces in his home city, Berlin. Perhaps to an Estonian living in Germany, the thought of setting some verses from the succeeding chapter as a companion piece was not wholly obvious or pressing. For a composer raised in, or cognisant of the Anglican music tradition, however, creating a Nunc dimittis to partner a Magnificat would almost seem like an obligation.

Pärt was indeed aware of the prevalence of partnered ‘Mag and Nunc’ settings elsewhere, and of the possible inevitability that he would set the Nunc dimittis in the future (though not consciously as a companion to the Magnificat). So he describes it as a happy coincidence—‘my wish, their wish’—that he was asked to write one for the Choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, and their director Matthew Owens. Twelve years after the Berlin Magnificat, this setting of three remarkable verses from Luke Chapter 2 was premiered in a cathedral Evensong during the Edinburgh Festival in August 2001.

It is a text just waiting to be set by a composer of Pärt’s sensibilities – one of serenity and tenderness, followed by transcendent, sparkling joy. The same still beauty that he achieved back in 1977 with the second part of Tabula Rasa, or the Stabat Mater in 1985, is present in the opening of this Nunc dimittis; and all three share the same stepwise downward sighs and intermingling dissonances of upper voices. In the equally placid ‘Gloria Patri’ (interestingly, Pärt’s Magnificat doesn’t feature this customary adjunct to the Evening Canticles), the two upper parts work against each other in stepwise ascent, then descent, around a contra-bass C sharp/G sharp pedal—playing with dissonance and consonance in the same way that Bach so often did. Centrally, Pärt prepares the ground for a radiant climax on ‘lumen ad revelationem’ (‘a light to lighten’) with a measured procession of gradually expanding phrases and anticipations of the brief, majesterial shift from C sharp minor to major.

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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