In his monolithic setting of the Passio
(St John Passion
), Pärt had already established in 1982 a syllabically deadpan, recitative-like way of story-telling. Though not so strictly following Pärt’s tintinnabulist route-map of combined stepwise and triadic movement, The woman with the alabaster box
, a piece of story-telling from St Matthew’s gospel, has a similar crystalline simplicity. Adjacent thirds interweave against long-held notes, creating subtle clashes and resolutions. The choral texture unites with pianissimo emphasis for Christ’s final words ‘Verily I say unto you …’. The vocal compass expands, both upwards and downwards, for effect. The controlled serenity and subtlety of expression are, again, mesmerizing. This 1997 setting was composed for the 350th anniversary of the Karlstad Diocese in Sweden, and was first performed by the Erik Westberg Vocal Ensemble in Karlstad Cathedral.
from notes by Meurig Bowen © 2014