Sleeping Dogs Lie 12: Arvo Pärt

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. –Jason Verlinde

Alina 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 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

Tabula Rasa has two movements. The first called Ludis (“play”) is nimble, energetic, with unremitting momentum. On the background trademark chords plays out an ever-expanding melodic line that culminates in a devastating climax. The second movement Silentium is slower, more deliberate. The melody evolves slowly, aiming for resolution. But as it approaches its tonic end, it gets ever-slower, ever-quieter until the final note is left unplayed and just implied. Perfection is acheived by silence alone.

01. Arvo Pärt: “Spiegel Im Spiegel” (from “Alina”, ECM, 2000)
02. Arvo Pärt: “Für Alina” (from “Alina”, ECM, 2000)
03. Arvo Pärt: “Spiegel Im Spiegel” (from “Alina”, ECM, 2000)
04. Arvo Pärt: “Für Alina” (from “Alina”, ECM, 2000)
05. Arvo Pärt: “Spiegel Im Spiegel” (from “Alina”, ECM, 2000)
06. Arvo Pärt: “Tabula Rasa: II. Silentium” (from “Tabula Rasa”, Deutsche Grammophon, 1999)