Arvo Pärt Miserere The Hilliard Ensemble David James countertenor Rogers Covey-Crump tenor John Potter tenor Gordon Jones baritone. Performers. The Hilliard Ensemble Paul Hillier, conductor. Orchester der Beethovenhalle Bonn Dennis Russell Davies, conductor. This latest in ECM’s continuing series of music by Arvo Part strikes me as being the There are two large-scale works here, Miserere and the curiously-named.

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That in itself is a high commendation: There are two large-scale works here, Miserere and the curiously-named Sarah was ninety years old ; but even the piece they enclose— Festina lente —seems grander than its actual size, while the two longer works convey the impression of achieving truly epic dimensions.

For all that Part’s musical language depends upon the most basic of building materials, there is no such thing as a miniature in his miserfre of thinking. The sober, chilling Miserere will surely win the wider appeal, and yet I admit to being even more ravo by Sarah was ninety years old. By a stroke of genius, it possesses a text, but not a word of it is set to music.

Pärt Miserere; Festina lente; Sarah was ninety-yearsold |

Instead we are to read silently, and understand the words as an analogue to the score. Its selection of verses from Genesis tells how Sarah was miraculously brought with child by the will of the Lord, giving birth to Isaac at the unheard-of age of Part’s music, while not exactly attempting to relate the story, nevertheless richly communicates the passing of time, mounting anticipation and, at the end, wondrous fulfilment.


It is an essay in minimalist ritual, expressed in two alternating textures. The first, a solemn beating of drums that intensifies at each new appearance, might have been lifted from a Burmese temple or a Tibetan monastery, so primeval is paart language.

The second, of intertwining solo voices, takes its lead from the Gothic world of Notre-Dame polyphony, later sophisticating into two-part wordless mkserere that approach but never quite cross the threshold of articulacy. When the great cry of childbirth finally comes, its agony is all the greater for its having been awaited so long.

Sarah dates from ; the Misererea setting of Psalm 51, by contrast is brand new Troped into it, however, is the torso of a Dies iraesketched inwhich Part never finished.

On its own it would have been a breathtaking piece, with its shrieking choir, blaring brass, full organ and clanging bells.

Breaking out as it now does from the stillness of the psalm, the effect of an apocalyptic vision is all the more terrifying.

Pärt: Miserere

Of the Miserere itself, one need know only that it is miseree essay in the lean style already used so successfully in the St John Passion and the Stabat mater. What moments of warmth occur serve only to make the surrounding coldness appear all the colder. Festina lente for string orchestra and harp brings to mind the elegaic tone of Part’s earlier Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Brittenand like its predecessor it is essentially pqrt canon that operates at several speeds simultaneously.


Even if the full intricacy of the procedure reveals itself only on paper, there is a sense of mystical dialogue about the result that no one will miss. As if to discourage sampling, neither of the long pieces is indexed into shorter tracks—an admirable decision.

The booklet is generous in white space, and shuns page numbers, nice touches of design that complement the music and reflect the general thoughtfulness pervading the whole issue.

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Miserere (Pärt) – Wikipedia

Composition Artist Credits Sarah was ninety-years old. Sarah was ninety-years old.

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