Arvo Part: I AM THE TRUE VINE. Theater of Voices, Paul Hillier, director. (Harmonia Mundi).
While many of the early compositions of Estonian-born Arvo P䲴 (born 1935) are secular in nature, his more recent Christian-based music combines an ancient spirituality with a contemporary-music aesthetic. In the wake of 12-tone music, agnostic serialism, and cerebrally empty compositions that leave the listener feeling left out, P䲴 has created a strikingly beautiful form of classical music with deeply religious roots. P䲴's unique "tintinnabuli" style utilizes the bell-like characteristics of the notes of the simple triad. Derived from intense study of Western plainchant and early polyphony, this instantly recognizable style beautifully suits the religious texts illuminated by the music. The disc opens with six pieces written between 1990 and 1997. Those accustomed to P䲴's seriousness may be amazed to discover that the music of the first composition, set to orthodox liturgy, actually rejoices. The next, I am the true vine (John 14:1-14), is gentle and intimate, while others are solemn and penitent. The disc ends with the wonderful Berliner Messe, revised for organ accompaniment. Comparing this organ version of the mass to the earlier, equally authentic ECM recording with chamber orchestra accompaniment, this one wins. Five stars.