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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 30 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)

… which was the son of …
First line:
And Jesus himself began to be
author of text
Luke 3: 23-38

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
While the Magnificat from Luke Chapter 1—the Song of Mary—and the Nunc dimittis from Luke Chapter 2—the Song of Simeon—are obviously set-able texts for a composer, the same cannot necessarily be said of Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus in the following chapter. To some composers indeed, this long list of names might seem no more enticing to set than the proverbial telephone directory.

For Pärt, however, it was more than just a technical challenge or the possibility of ritual-like musical repetition. The attraction to this text (in its ‘traditional and authoritative’ translation, according to Pärt) came bound up with the nature of the commission itself—the singers the piece was for and the country it was premiered in.

Pärt was asked to write a work for the youth choir Voices of Europe, gathered in Reykjavík in 2000 to celebrate its status as European Capital of Culture that year. The choir featured ten singers each from the nine previous Cultural Capitals, aged between 18 and 23. Pärt’s first decision, therefore, was to set a text in English, Europe’s de facto ‘lingua franca’ as it were.

Pärt had visited Iceland previously, and was impressed by the country’s highly educated population, their high levels of interest in European literature and, he noted, the unusually large number of writers amongst them. Add to that the composer’s interest in the deep-rooted Icelandic tradition of passing on names from one generation to generation, and his wish to impart this biblical ‘story of civilisation’ to young people, and verses 23 to 38 of Luke 3 became a compelling text. To him, one senses, this is not merely a fabulous list of ancient names, a biblical truth since challenged by Darwin; there is something germinal and sacred about it—gospel indeed.

Needless to say, Pärt ensures this text avoids monotony through variance of character and a distinct climax along the way. After an opening whose sprung rhythms give it the assuredness of a French-style baroque ouverture, the piece takes off with the same narrative urgency of Dopo la vittoria. Basses are answered by the upper three voices—shades of folksiness and Spirituals here?—and after about a third of the text is deftly dispatched in this way, a more mellifluous section in 9/8 takes over. A fluid interchange of 4/4 and 9/8 sections takes us right through the climactic trio of Jacob, Isaac and Abraham—wondrous C major emphasis on the last of these. And through use of the surprisingly familiar ‘cycle of fifths’ harmonic sequence, the oldest ancestors of Jesus are ever more quickly revealed, almost breathlessly to reach the ultimate, fundamental truth—‘which was the son of Adam, which was the son of …’—and here Pärt sets it all out with respectful simplicity and resolution—‘… God.’

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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