h1

The Silence of Being: The Music of Arvo Pärt

May 20, 2008

Four weeks ago, my Music Theory teacher explained to the class that each of us were to do a short report on a classical composer of the twentieth century. I immediately called Arvo Pärt. Nothing else could have competed. I spent a weekend listening to his music and researching him at my local library. That weekend, I had a visit to Borders and by chance stumbled upon this box set. I walked out of the store having purchased it for approximately $32.

Why it took until 2008 for such a box set to be released is beyond me. How I got away with buying it for $32 is also beyond me.

I can say with great confidence that Arvo Pärt is my favorite composer, although I am probably not alone these days. In a world where classical music is becoming increasingly fashionable for the hip crowd, Pärt reigns supreme with his unique and somewhat legendary body of work.

The Silence of Being is a box set that contains many of the composers most famous or seminal works. Instead of being a sort of greatest hits compilation, this box set is instead a collection of five previously released collections of Pärt’s music, divided up somewhat chronologically.

The first disk contains six different recordings of possibly Pärt’s most popular song, Fratres, plus a lovely version of Festina Lente, a string version of Summa, and the timeless recording of Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. The second disk contains the tintinnabuli classic Tabula Rasa as well as some more essential early polyphonic works. The third disk contains the divided entirety of St. John’s Passion, perhaps Pärt’s longest work, and one of the most respected. The fourth and fifth disks explore the composers post-1980 choral music that has come to characterize him, in great variety, actually.

Rounding up Arvo Pärt music is hard. Your library probably has some, and you can order some for cheap off of amazon. But you will likely never be able to get a single collection with every Pärt essential on it. To be sure, this collection misses many important pieces. It contains neither Fur Alina or Spiegel Im Spiegel, two of his most beautiful minimalist pieces, and it also skips out on Te Deum, Pärt’s quintessential choral piece.

These two exclusions alone make this box set’s goals seem purely commercial. Also indicative of a money scheme is the inclusion of the Sonic Rebellion compilation, which contains only one of Pärt’s pieces which can already be found on disk one of the box set. The subtitle of Sonic Rebellion is “Alternative Classical Rebellion.” Clearly aimed toward the indie kids who were already interested in Pärt but wanted more modern music. Pärt doesn’t fit in with these other artists, except perhaps Philip Glass, and the rest is essentially a baited hook for listeners who want to experience the more aimless pretensions of modern composition. I also  noticed several typos and misprints in the track listing on the back of the box.

So it’s a money trick. Yeah. If Pärt had sanctioned and overlooked the release himself, I’m sure we would have gotten a completely new compilation. Instead we get five classic Pärt compilations and a bonus disk of goodies. And for $32? A steal. I should have paid one hundred dollars for this, at least, considering what is in it. If you can find it for a reasonable price, waste no time and buy it. This is a great place to start a Pärt collection, but a bad place to stop.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. hey.. please could you explain how Arvo Pärts “tintinnabuli” works.. I mean musictheoretically!
    I have searched the internet but cannot find anything proper.

    (K)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: