Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) composed four symphonies, which are collected here for the first time on a single disc. Together they constitute a fascinating tour through his compositional trajectory over a period of 45 years.
Pärt’s work was by 1960 attracting the censure of the Soviet authorities, who regarded the avant-garde techniques of Symphony No 1 (1963), which combined serialism with contrapuntal forms, as evidence of ‘Western decadence.’ He continued working with serialism in Symphony No 2 (1966), but the banning of his Credo (1968) coincided with the beginning of a ‘silent’ period, during which Pärt immersed himself in the study of Gregorian chant, medieval music and vocal polyphony, resulting in a radically reconfigured compositional framework. Symphony No 3 (1971) is an early product of this reinvention, in which the stripped back, cyclic motifs instantly recognisable as Pärt’s signature style predominate.
It would be 37 years until Symphony No 4 (2008) fulfilled a transcontinental commission, and this is perhaps the most striking work here, replete with shimmering strings grounded in space, deep emotion and quiet intensity.
Tõnu Kaljuste leads the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic through wildly varied terrain with deep sensitivity and a steady hand. The performances are complemented by a magnificent recording: crisp and precise, spacious and resonant.