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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: 9 minutes 11 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)

My heart's in the highlands
composer
2000
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Pärt would himself have been a teenage schoolboy when St Nicolas was first performed in 1948, and school would surely have been very different for him in post-War Soviet Estonia than in Sussex. But there is one way in which things would have been the same it seems, and it is surprising. Russian was the compulsory second language in Estonia at that time, but other foreign languages were learnt too. Pärt didn’t necessarily learn to speak much English—and it wouldn’t have been looked upon favourably by the authorities if he had done so—but he did learn by heart much English-language poetry (as they would have done at Lancing too). And the poem he first learnt, and came to love most of all, was one that lilts and yearns for somewhere else, Robert Burns’s My heart’s in the Highlands. As ‘the text that has resonated within me the whole of my life’, it was an obvious choice for setting to music ‘as a small present for my beloved David James’. It is this singer’s distinctive, haunting countertenor voice that Pärt has appreciated in The Hilliard Ensemble’s many performances of his music since their first BBC recording in the mid-1980s.

The organ part is strictly ‘tintinnabulist’, with its stepwise bass and triadic upper line. The vocal line, too, picks out just the three notes of the F minor triad—one for each verse. But although its building blocks are the most minimal on this disc, Pärt’s audacious setting perfectly captures the bleakness and longing of the poem.

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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