Arvo Pärt: Recommended recordings

September 12, 2010

In response to yesterday’s post marking Arvo Pärt’s birthday, I was asked to recommend one or two recordings for someone interested in hearing his music for the first time. Rather than confine my recommendations to a follow-up comment, I thought I’d put them here, where all may see.

I was asked for one or two recommendations, but I’ll go one better, to three.  The first two focus on his music for voices, and the last on instrumental music.

My first recommendation is Arbos, a recording from 1987 on ECM Records.  ECM made a series of Pärt recordings at around that time with the Hilliard Ensemble (Arbos, Miserere, and Passio), and in my opinion they still have not been surpassed. Of the three, Arbos is the most approachable and has the most variety.  It includes several short pieces, including Pärt’s wonderful setting of De Profundis, and closes with a large-scale work, the Stabat Mater.  It is an excellent all around introduction.

My second suggestion for choral music is a disc from Theatre of Voices, released in 1997 on Harmonia Mundi.  Again it includes a nice variety of different works, and has little overlap with the previous disc. It also includes a little-recorded piece called And One of the Pharisees, which I am personally very fond of.  The singing and recording quality are top shelf.

When it comes to Pärt’s instrumental music, my first recommendation in the past has always been Tabula Rasa, also on ECM.  This recording, from 1984, has achieved something of classic status in Pärt’s discography, principally for its excellent performance of the title piece, written for two violins, prepared piano, and string orchestra.  Recently, however, another recording of that piece has edged into top spot in my estimation, and I will recommend it: Arvo Pärt: Portrait was released in 2010 on the Montreal-based label Analekta.  In addition to a very beautiful and poised performance of Tabula Rasa, this disc also includes a number of other instrumental works, including the wonderful Speigel im Spiegel, and even one choral work (Ein Wallfahrtslied) not included on either of the two previous recommendations.   It is, once again, a very fine introduction to Pärt and his music.

Happy listening!

2 Responses to “Arvo Pärt: Recommended recordings”

  1. Mac Says:

    Tabula Rasa was my introduction to Pärt, and I think I’d recommend it first to someone curious about his music, because it has a flow and unity as a collection that Arbos doesn’t, in my opinion.

  2. cburrell Says:

    Well, I like Tabula Rasa, though I do think that the sound quality has been surpassed now.

    We have a difference of opinion about Arbos. I think it works really well as an “ECM objet d’art”. The two performances of ‘Arbos’ and the long ‘Stabat Mater’ finale give it a very aesthetically pleasing shape, in my opinion.


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