recommended music

Arvo Pärt: Te Deum

by James Flood

This sublime collection of Pärt offerings is executed with a stunning performance by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, one that earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance of 1994. The CD opens with the title work “Te Deum,” a setting of the monumental fourth-century prayer of praise. Pärt’s “Te Deum” is a 30-minute work of grand proportions that surely ranks as one of his definitive masterpieces. The score makes use of a stirring wind harp and Gregorian Chant–like melodies, alternating the choral sections with a string orchestra, which soars with the thematic melodies and punctuates them with urgent and rhythmic violins. It is a work of austere beauty that simultaneously inspires awe and fear as well as love and adoration of God. Also featured are the simple yet haunting string orchestra work “Silouans Song” (the Tallin Chamber Orchestra), a solemn and meditative a capella setting of the “Magnificat,” and the beautiful and mysterious “Berliner Messe,” another large-scale work which includes a joyful Credo in 6/8.

Upon its release, Stereophile magazine named it “Recording of the Month.” Reviewer Les Berkley attested, “I am not a Christian, but I believe that the Holy Spirit must move through this man as light is refracted through a crystal…. Arvo Pärt appears to write music that is completely and transparently to the glory of God.”

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