<< -- 2 -- Rex Harley TINTINNABULATION
The remaining items on this disc are two earlier pieces: Collage über BACH
and Symphony No 3. Now, in one way this is a bold move. Rather than being offered
well-known works in a similar style to Tabula Rasa, we are given the chance to
explore further; to retrace the steps that the composer himself took on his long, and often
discouraging musical journey.
Collage über BACH, sees him emerging from his serialist period, and the piece
sounds what it is: an experiment -- a necessary piece in the jigsaw of his development. It
could be a minor work by Lutoslawski. It could be, and indeed is, a minor work by Arvo Pärt.
Symphony No 3 is a more expansive, more fully developed piece which emerged from a
protracted period of study of chant and early polyphony. Pärt himself has referred to it
as a 'joyous piece of music' but not 'the end of my despair and my search', and it certainly
has its moments. However, even at its best this symphony feels like a thoughtful and imaginative
pastiche of its sources
[listen -- track 8, 0:00-1:15]: a rather grander version
of something like Poulenc's take on
Arbeau's dances from Orchesographie. And, at its least successful, timpani bang away
bombastically and the music starts to sound like the sound-track of a pseudo-mediaeval film,
complete with Tony Curtis in a tin suit of armour. The best moments are those given to the
brass, which take the role of the human voice, raised in praise.
And that's it. Three pieces, the best at the beginning; and the whole thing adding up to just
over fifty minutes' music -- a notably abstemious piece of programming for the usually
generous Naxos. The booklet notes too are short, and also dry and over-technical. These may
seem carping criticisms; after all, you don't have to part with much money. But the whole thing
seems to me to be a piece of well-intentioned misjudgment. Somehow the didactic has overwhelmed
the aesthetic. It may be a good idea to educate us, so we understand more of Pärt's
musical development, but I suspect that those who want to listen to Tabula Rasa will
find the other pieces unsatisfying. They are, in a sense, juvenilia, whatever the
composer's chronological age when writing them; curiosity pieces to play your friends as
part of a quiz.
That said, you may wish to sample early Pärt. And even if you don't, at
its bargain price I have to admit that this CD could well be worth the getting for
Tabula Rasa alone
[listen -- track 1, 8:42-9:47].