(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)
Lebrecht's Album of the Week

Arvo Pärt: Works for Choir (Cugate Classics)

The 40 minutes of music on this album is alternately hypnotic and uplifting

★★★☆☆

I chucked out a bunch of new releases this week, mostly solo recitals on esoteric instruments like the harp, the mandolin and the saxophone, though also viola, voice and harpsichord, some on so-called major labels.

Arvo Pärt: Works for Choir (Cugate Classics)

These recitals are mostly paid for by the soloist after a label decides they are uncommercial. Knowing that people are unlikely to buy it, why would I waste valuable time reviewing and you listening about it? In these fragile times when every hour of life is doubly precious, artists need to think twice and thing again before pushing out more and more of these promotional discs. The recycle bin is overflowing.

When Pärt titles a piece ‘Magnificat’, you can be confident that it is

If there’s one thing I’ve missed more in Covid than the sound of a symphony orchestra tuning up, it’s the little shuffle a choir gives before it opens throats and lets rip. While I’m not a great fan of the flock of Anglican dirges with organ obbligato that descends at this time of year, and less still of the growling of Russian monks, Pärt’s unaccompanied devotions occupy a space all their own, a contemplation of the divine beneath God’s own skies. When Pärt titles a piece “Magnificat”, you can be confident that it is. The insult of “holy minimalism” that Boulez hurled his way has never sounded less appropriate. 

I know nothing about the Vilnius Municipal Choir nor its artistic director Vaclovas Augustinas because the label – also new to me – has not bothered to supply a booklet. But the 40 minutes of music on this album is alternately hypnotic and uplifting and I can recommend it without hesitation – just the caveats that it’s short and uninformative. Lord, they have lovely choirs on the Baltic. When, oh when, will we hear them live again?

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