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Paavo Järvi, Estonian National Orchestra Shine in New All-Pärt Disc

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 5, 2002 - 9:40:02 PM in reviews_2002

Paavo Järvi: Estonian National Orchestra.  Arvo Pärt, "Summa"; "Trisagion"; Symphony No. 3; "Fratres"; "Silouan's Song"; "Festina Lente"; "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten." Virgin Classics.

(first published in The Cincinnati Post Nov. 4, 2002)

Cincinnati Symphony music director Järvi deserves a summa (cum laude) for this entrancing new release for Virgin Classics by the orchestra of his native land. Arvo Pärt is Estonia’s most famous composer and Järvi and his hometown band – Järvi became artistic adviser of the Tallinn-based Estonian National Orchestra in September - showcase him handsomely.
Six of the seven works exemplify Pärt’s enormously popular "tintinnabuli" style (Latin for "bells"). They are "Summa," "Trisagion," "Fratres," "Silouan’s Song," "Festina Lente" and "Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten" (performed by Järvi and the CSO last season).  The earlier Symphony No. 3 (1971), scored for large orchestra, marks Pärt’s adoption of tonality after his early modernist phase. Its cues come from early music – note the distinctive "Landini cadence" at the end of phrases (Landini was a 14th-century Italian composer). But it has a contemporary urgency, especially in Järvi’s reading, with the powerful, timpani episode in the second movement.
Also called "mystical minimalism," Pärt's "tintinnabuli" style is deeply rooted in his Russian Orthodox faith. "Trisagion" for string orchestra is a haunting work keyed to the Orthodox liturgy. "Summa" is an arrangement for strings of a lovely "Credo" for voices.
In "Fratres" ("Brothers") wood blocks and bass drum set off descending strings over a drone bass. "Silouan’s Song" is a string meditation complete with silences (Silouan was a 20th-century Russian monk). "Festina Lente" ("hasten slowly") for strings and harp has lines moving against each other at different speeds.
"Cantus" with its plaintive, cascading strings and tolling bell concludes this eminently rewarding disc.