On Spec 11: Arvo Pärt – Alina
Bought on a whim, because I first heard of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt through our friend Michael in Saskatoon fifteen years ago. He raved about the man’s work, which is described as minimalist and uses a self-created compositional technique he calls tintinnabuli.
On a cool side note, Wiki says “Since 2010 Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world.”
I will get to what this music did to me in a moment, but first, and this is incredibly lazy of me, but it’s already been said best by others..
Arvo Pärt’s Alina follows a simple-enough formula. Two stark instrumental works from the master of holy minimalism repeat each other, each time slightly different. But the blissful results–quiet, haunting, and thoroughly hypnotizing–meld to create one of classical music’s best albums of 2000. It’s as intense and sublime as contemporary classical music can be. – Amazon
This is a remarkable release, both for its beauty and its novelty at programming. Für Alina is a two-minute solo piano piece composed by Pärt in l976 that ushered in his “tintinnabuli” style, that is, the bell-like, simple, no-notes-wasted method for which he has become beloved and famous. On this CD, pianist Alexander Malter plays it twice, as the second and fourth tracks; each iteration takes almost 11 minutes (Pärt assumed it would be embellished, and he chose this pair for the CD). There are minute variations in tempo, emphasis, and rubato from one to the other, but, all that being said, it amounts to 22 minutes of the most beautiful, contemplative music ever performed. Almost equally gentle is Spiegel im Spiegel , played as tracks 1, 3 and 5 and scored for piano and, respectively, violin, cello, and then violin again. The notes the instruments mirror one another (Spiegel is German for mirror), with notes added to the scale with each repetition, and so on. Almost impossible to describe in its loveliness, each of the three sets is beautiful; the cello in track 3 gives it extra mellowness. This is music staggering in its simple complexity and a treat for the ear and heart. –Robert Levine
‘Almost impossible to describe in its loveliness,’ indeed. I sat down with the good headphones, ready to apply what remains of my brain and review the shit out of this album, ready for anything… but I was left sitting here, disarmed and immobile, just letting the stark beauty of it all wash over me. It’s the sort of music that, in the quiet of a comfortable room on a rainy day, could render a listener tearful from beauty and joy. It’s so simple, elegant, peaceful. I was lifted, made at ease, and when it concluded I felt myself yearning to catch up with the tail end of it so it could go on and on…
I haven’t felt like this about an album in a long time. Through the good headphones you can hear shifting on the piano bench, breathing, the sound of the pedals being depressed… it’s like you’re right there in the room with them as they perform this…
I’ve gone a couple of days without posting because I kept returning to this album, and every time it floored me. Simply the best On Spec album of the series thus far, and possibly of the whole series, for however long it runs. Also one of the best albums I have heard in ages, full stop.