Hot on the heels of her very successful release of music by Philip Glass, Angèle Dubeau and her string ensemble La Pietà now venture into a more spiritual and emotional land where lives the music of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Although he has often been qualified as a minimalist just like Glass, he himself strongly disagrees. He does work with very few elements, just like minimalists, but the essence or emotional core of the music is far from being simple.
Take for example one of my favorite pieces from his canon of works, the Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. Layers of notes, stacked on top of each other, playing a descending A minor scale, with the upper strings playing short notes, while each descending group of strings play longer and longer notes, as the sets move down from violins, to violas, to cellos, to double basses, all the while going from ppp to from beginning to end. It is somewhat like a fractal in music, with the exact same set of notes growing from smallest to largest. But what is strange about all this, is that even though the mechanics of the music may be simple and primitive, the emotional impact lies on a much higher level and leaves you with the feeling that you've just witnessed something grand. Another work on this recording that reaches the soul is the Wallfahrtslied (Pilgrim's Song) for men's choir and string orchestra. There's an almost surreal sound to this one as the voices and strings co-exist on different levels. And of course the CD closes with the famous Spiegel im Spiegel (mirror in the mirror). A simpler and more static piece of music could not be written, but again the emotional impact of this calm and soft little gem is huge. Other works found on the CD are Summa, Tabula Rasa and Mozart-Adagio.
The playing by Angèle Dubeau and her ensemble matches the spiritual essence of the music at all times, and the blend of the strings, especially in the 'Cantus', is remarkable for its ever so gradual crescendo from start to finish and its emotional weight.
I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener. (Arvo Pärt)