Friday, 24 July 2015

Pärt - Titntinabuli - The Tallis Scholars/Philips

Rating: 5/5

A fabulous disc
This is a fabulous disc from the Tallis Scholars. I have been saying that for years about their superb recordings of Renaissance polyphony, and this disc devoted entirely to the music of Arvo Pärt stands with their best - which for the Tallis Scholars is really saying something.

This disc is in honour of Pärt's 80th birthday and shows why he is one of the most respected and loved of contemporary composers. The title of the disc refers to Pärt's technique of basing his music on the sound and harmonic structures of a struck bell. This gives it a warmth and depth of sound closely related to the polyphony we usually associate with the Tallis Scholars, but with distinctive 20th- and 21st-Century harmonies and dissonances. It also shares the deep spirituality of polyphony and the effect is extraordinarily beautiful in places and very dramatic in others. The music often seems to somehow fill the air with light and stillness, drawing you in and speaking to you very intimately. (I'm sorry if that sounds over-flowery or pretentious - it's not easy to describe the effect of Pärt's music, but that's the best I can do to convey some of it.)

The performances are wonderful. Singing two voices to a part, the Tallis Scholars invest the music with immense beauty, depth and power in places. They are technically impeccable, of course, and engage completely with the meaning of what they are singing. For me, their flawless, at times almost ætherial sound is perfect for this music.

Even if you're a bit sceptical about contemporary music, I would strongly urge you to give this a try. It is distinctively modern but firmly rooted in ancient tradition and is simply very beautiful. Peter Philips's notes are, as always, very interesting and readable, the recorded sound is excellent and the presentation attractive (if a little on the frolicsome side for the Tallis Scholars). It's a really excellent disc and very warmly recommended.

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