Arvo Pärt: The Symphonies

NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, Tõnu Kaljuste

EN / DE
All four of Arvo Pärt’s symphonies, newly recorded with the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic under the direction of one of Pärt’s most trusted colleagues, Tõnu Kaljuste. Each of the symphonies, as the great Estonian composer has noted, is a world unto itself. Heard in chronological order they also tell us much about Pärt’s musical and spiritual journey, and the very different ways in which he has exercised his craft. Forty-five years separate his Symphony No. 1 (“Polyphonic”) written in 1963 while he was still a student of Heino Eller, from his Symphony No. 4 (“Los Angeles”) written in 2008, by which time he was the world’s most widely-performed contemporary composer.
Alle vier Symphonien Arvo Pärts, neu eingespielt mit der NFM Filharmonia Wrocławska unter der Leitung von Tõnu Kaljuste, einem Kollegen, dem Pärt unbedingt vertraut. Jede der Symphonien, wie der großartige estnische Komponist bekräftigt hat, ist eine Welt für sich. In chronologischer Reihenfolge rezipiert, erzählen sie viel von Pärts musikalischer und spiritueller Reise und den sehr unterschiedlichen Wegen, auf denen er sein Handwerk ausübt. Vierundvierzig Jahre trennen seine Erste Symphonie („Polyphonic”) – komponiert im Jahr 1963, als er noch bei Heino Eller studierte – von seiner Vierten („Los Angeles”). Als er die Vierte 2008 niederschrieb, war er schließlich der weltweit am Häufigsten aufgeführte Komponist der Gegenwart.    
Featured Artists Recorded

October 2015 & August 2016, Main Hall of the National Forum of Music, Wroclaw

  • Symphony No. 1 "Polyphonic"
    (Arvo Pärt)
  • 1Canons11:18
  • 2Prelude and Fugue07:56
  • Symphony No. 2
    (Arvo Pärt)
  • 3I03:36
  • 4II02:14
  • 5III04:47
  • Symphony No. 3
    (Arvo Pärt)
  • 6I06:29
  • 7II05:48
  • 8III08:05
  • Symphony No. 4 "Los Angeles"
    (Arvo Pärt)
  • 9Con sublimitá09:14
  • 10Affannoso11:47
  • 11Insistentemente. Con intimo sentimento - Coda. Deciso08:08
This disc, definitively conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, who seems to have become the composer’s preferred interpreter, is the first to include all four of Pärt’s symphonies […] There’s dissonance and angular 12-note polyphony in the First, from 1964, and almost Webern-like compression in the 10-minute Second (1966), while the Third, from 1971, shows the first signs of the new direction Pärt would subsequently follow, with references to Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony, and a much clearer emphasis on melodic writing. To those who only know the later works, these early scores will seem to inhabit a different musical world altogether. Kaljuste and his orchestra are just as convincing when placidly unwrapping those bundles of archaic-sounding melody, as he is confronting the angularities and contrapuntal clashes of the earlier works.
Andrew Clements, Guardian
 
Wir beobachten einen Riesen beim Wachsen.
Oliver Creutz, Stern
 
It is the Symphony No. 4, dating from 2008, that is written in the numinous, hypnotic style that everyone wants to hear. At half an hour, it is the longest of the four and holds its rapt spell from beginning to end. There have been good recordings of all these symphonies before, especially No. 4 from its premiere in Los Angeles, but not together in a single, neat package like this. Tõnu Kaljuste is  a seasoned Pärt conductor and the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic is well recorded.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times
 
Im direkten Vergleich der vier Sinfonien auf einem Tonträger wird durch die sorgfältigen Interpretationen Kaljustes umso deutlicher, dass jede der Pärt-Sinfonien eine Welt für sich ist. Schon allein deshalb ist dieses Album sehr zu empfehlen.
Miquel Cabruja, Audio
 
En quatre pièces, nous sommes ainsi embarqués dans le voyage d’un artiste suprenant, qui a su parler aux niches étroites avant de s’adresser aux foules.
Rocco Zacheo, Tribune de Genève
 
Der Dirigent Tonu Kaljuste agiert als ein ausgesprochener Spezialist dieses Meisters, er nimmt die Musik energisch in die Hand ohne ihr dabei das empfindsame, kristalline Innenleben zu zerbrechen. Dass er von Hause aus ein Mann für Chöre ist, hört man dem ‚sanglichen’ Gestus seiner Interpretation an.
Reinhard Ermen, Südwestrundfunk
 
As with any composer, one can view each and every symphony as its own standalone piece of work, but this collection really highlights how Pärt’s symphonography can be divided int a surprisingly even fashion. It’s almost as if each symphony has its own counterpoint, ‘No. 2’ cutting down on the indulgences of ‘No. 1’ while the relaxed-yet-deliberate ‘No. 4’ feels indebted to the tones and themes set up in ‘No. 3’. Taken together, this is a challenging yet enjoyable package, one that might be colder than what Pärt fans would expect from one his choral pieces, but not so intellectual as to be treated as a merely academic listening experience. Pärt may not have allowed his symphonies to be peaceful, but he did treat them with a great deal of craft and love, and we’re just lucky that a collaborator like Kaljuste was able to find the humanity in them and bring it all to life.
Evan Sawdey, Pop Matters
 
In Pärt’s case the return to simplicity was also a move forwards, to a rigorous new way of combining melodic line and arpeggiated chord. It creates an instantly recognizable sound-world, luminous, tranquil, but with an admixture of something sweetly sharp. He makes dissonance seem innocent. So riveting is the music that followed Pärt’s eureka moment that it’s easy to dismiss everything that came before. This disc shows what a mistake that is. […] All four pieces receive performances here of striking sensitivity and acute dramatic timing.
Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph
 
The performances here are uniformly outstanding. Kaljuste and the Wroclaw players are passionate advocates for Pärt’s music. The sound design shows off the composer’s assured but not flashy organization, and sounds very good at both dynamic extremes. This is an essential recording for Pärt’s many fans, and a valuable one for anyone who wants to hear how one of the era’s most important composers developed.
Steve Hicken, Burning Ambulance
 
Zwei atonale Frühsymphonien von 1964 und 1966 sind von Knappheit und Verdichtung gekennzeichnet, Tugenden der Schönbergschule und insbesondere Weberns, die denn auch im damaligen sowjetischen Kontext für gehörigen Anstoß sorgten. Die um 1970 ansetzenden Vereinfachungstendenzen kündigen sich in der etwas ausgedehnteren 3. Symphonie von 1971 an. Eine 4. und bislang letzte Symphonie entstand dann 2008 für die Los Angeles-Philharmoniker; der Untertitel ‚Los Angeles‘ meint aber nicht nur Geographisches, sondern umreißt auch die ‚Engelhaftigkeit‘ des halbstündigen Werkinhalts. Nach dem etwas gravitätischen, deutlich archaisierenden Kopfsatz sind die beiden folgenden Sätze gleichsam leise, subtile, in mystischem Dämmer eintauchende Abgesänge, konfliktfrei und in lichten Farben. Auch hier korrespondiert Pärt mit durchaus aktuellen künstlerischen Tendenzen der Zurücknahme und Bescheidenheit, auch einer Suche nach Unschuld und neuer Naivität, was, wie die ‚Entdeckung der Langsamkeit‘, zu den machtvoll-ohnmächtigen Versuchen gehört, dem ansonsten kaum aufzuhaltenden Zerstörungs- und Geschwindigkeitssteigerungs-Furor zu begegnen. […] Die Aufnahme der Symphonien mit dem NFM Wroclav Philharmonic-Orchester unter der Leitung von Tonu Kaljuste wirkt mustergültig, und informativ und unbestechlich liest sich Wolfgang Sandners Booklettext.
Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Faustkultur
 
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra under Estonia’s Tönu Kaljuste are ideal interpreters of this music, and Pärt’s thought processes would not have been as clearly audible without ECM’s nonpareil sound.
James Manheim, All Music
 
Der mit diesen Aufnahmen betraute Freund Pärts, Tõnu Kaljuste, nimmt die vier Werke  ‚Wie eine einzige, große Symphonie‘: deswegen die fließenden Übergänge zwischen den Tracks. Das Breslauer Orchester kann sich mit jeder Konkurrenz messen.
Jens Laurson, Crescendo
 
The ECM disc presents all four of Pärt’s symphonies, which were written in 1963, 1966, 1971, and 2008 — and the stylistic changes you hear between them are fascinating to track. […] All of the performances are excellent.
Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist
 
Die vollständige Einspielung dieser vier Werke unter der Stabführung von Tonu Kaljuste mit dem Breslauer Orchester zeigt eine hochkonzentrierte, mitreißende Deutung. Kaljuste arbeitet die Bewegungsimpulse und weitere Details heraus, so dass eine ausgefeilte Interpretation entstanden ist. Trotz der unterschiedlichen Stile der vier Werke schaffen Kaljuste und die Breslauer Musiker eine geschlossene Gesamtdarstellung, die diesen Aspekt des Schaffens von Pärt mustergültig anbietet.
Uwe Krusch, Pizzicato
 
Die dritte Sinfonie aus der Neufindungsphase und, mehr noch, die vierte, die 2009 unter dem Titel ‚Los Angeles‘ uraufgeführt wurde, fahren tief unter die Haut. Aus den ruhig dahinfließenden Klangströmen erheben sich erregende Instrumentalstimmen, die wie klagender, fragender, jubilierender Gesang anmuten. Tonhöhen und –abstände kodieren Botschaften und forcieren zugleich Emotionen, die keiner Übersetzung bedürfen.
Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, Sächsische Zeitung
 
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) composed four symphonies, which are collected here for the first time on a single disc. Together, they constitute a fascinating tour through his compositional trajectory over a period of 45 years. […] Tõnu Kaljuste leads the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic through wildly varied terrain with deep sensitivity and a seady hand. The performances are complemented by a magnificent recording: crips and precise, spacious and resonant.
Lisa McKinney, Limelight
 
The symphony is a not a form which one immediately associates with the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Yet on this disc from Tonu Kaljuste and the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic on ECM New Series we have Arvo Pärt’s four symphonies which stretch across his entire output, Symphony No. 1 ‘Polyphonic’ (1966), Symphony No. 2 (1966), Symphony No. 3 (1971) and Symphony No. 4 ‘Los Angeles’ (2008). Wolfgang Sandner’s booklet essay about the symphonies includes an illuminating post-script, ‘Arvo Pärt maintains that each of his symphonies is a world unto itself and points in a different direction. A compass is necessary to determine that direction’. […] In the three early symphonies we can hear myriad influences, some of them obvious such as Shostakovich and the Soviet school of composers, but some less so. […] The final symphony is a remarkable working through of Pärt’s ideas and emotional commitment, applied to orchestral music. Tonu Kaljuste  draws strong performances from the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, and the orchestra moves brilliantly from the twelve-tone complexity of the early music to the deceptive simplicity of the later.
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
 
Jede der vier Sinfonien Arvo Pärts wirft einen anderen Kosmos weltanschaulicher Fragen auf, die diese Partituren und ihre mannigfaltigen Kompositionsstile zu Dokumenten einer Lebensreise erhöhen […] Politische und religiöse Themen umschlingen sich. Die verschiedene Schaffensperioden überwölbenden Sinfonien sind für Dirigenten nicht ganz einfach. Pärts gegen die sowjetische Musikästhetik gerichtete Satztechniken und der stellenweise sakral anmutende Aufschwung, dazu die üppige Instrumentation mit ihren kammermusikalischen Inseln legen verführerische Fallen zum orchestral glanzvollen Erstarren. Aber nicht in dieser Einspielung: Die von Tõnu Kaljuste hier mit präziser Strategie entwickelten Reihungen zeigen genauso die Fragen hinter den charismatisch bezwingenden Klängen.
Roland H. Dippel, Concerti
 
Pärts Landsmann Tõnu Kaljuste setzt bei seiner Interpretation sehr auf die klangfarblichen Finessen dieser Musik. […] Stark unterstützend wirkt bei diesem Unterfangen das exzellente Orchester des Nationalen Forums für Musik in Breslau. Individuell und kollektiv überzeugen die polnischen Musiker auf ganzer Linie, und ein hervorragendes Aufnahmeteam des Labels ECM hat Tõnu Kaljustes interpretatorischen Ansatz wunderbar konserviert.
Arnd Richter, Westdeutscher Rundfunk
 
You can’t do without this CD.
Robert Levine, Stereophile (Recording of the Month)
 
Tõnu Kaljuste is best known as a choral conductor and has a long track record in this composer. He is also an accomplished orchestral conductor and leads committed and convincing performances. The recording is good and the sleeve-notes, in German and English, are helpful. [… ] This is both a convenient and very satisfying release and it deserves every success.
Stephen Barber, Music Web International
Here are all four of Arvo Pärt’s symphonies, newly recorded with the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic under the direction of one of Pärt’s most trusted colleagues, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. Each of the symphonies, as the great Estonian composer has noted, is a world unto itself. Heard in chronological order, they also tell us much about Pärt’s musical and spiritual odyssey, and the very different ways in which he has exercised his craft. Forty-five years separate his Symphony No. 1 (“Polyphonic”) written in 1963 while he was still a student of Heino Eller, from his Symphony No. 4 (“Los Angeles”) written in 2008, by which time he was the world’s most widely-performed contemporary composer, and one whose now famous “tintinnabuli-style” has become an immediately identifiable artistic signature.
 
In presenting the works together, Tõnu Kaljuste considers them as “if they were a single grand symphony. I perceive Arvo Pärt’s creations as a biographical narrative, and hope that with the sound of the entirety of the music on this album we can refresh our memory of Pärt’s journey. It began with an entry into the neo-classical and serialist world, moved on with a composition that incorporated the use of collage, continued under the influence of early sacred music and – with the fourth symphony –  arrived at a confession-like music, with a sound world supported by prayer, penitence and suffering.”
 
“To study and listen to symphonies is, in essence, to read and comprehend a biography in notes,” writes Wolfang Sandner in his liner essay, going on to trace many of the correspondences between the notes in Pärt’s scores and the changes taking place in the composer’s life.  In 1968, Pärt embarked upon an intense period of study that found him reevaluating Gregorian chant, the Notre Dame school, and Renaissance polyphony. The first signs of this study were felt in the Symphony No. 3 in 1971.  
 
Wolfgang Sandner: “Pärt did not bury his head in the sand of music history in an effort to shut out the present. Like an archaeologist, he explored ancient compositional devices and realised what power can still be drawn from them with the knowledge of our day and a renunciation of all fashionable accessories. Pärt’s method has irrevocably become his own personal style of composition. It has given birth to an entire cosmos of masterpieces, from such early instrumental works as Tabula rasa, Fratres, Summa and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten to the large-scale choral and orchestral works Berliner Messe, Litany, Stabat Mater, Passio and Te Deum to his many pieces of chamber music and a cappella compositions, including the monumental Kanon Pokajanen.”
 
Of the four Pärt symphonies, only the fourth had previously been issued on ECM –  in a version with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, released in 2010.  
 
For the present album, Symphony No. 3 was recorded in October 2015, and  Symphonies Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in August 2016,  in the Main Hall of the National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland.   
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Tõnu Kaljuste has dedicated a major part of his work to the music of Estonian composers including Arvo Pärt, Heino Eller, Tõnu Kõrvits, Veljo Tormis, and Erkki-Sven Tüür, and recorded their compositions for ECM New Series. He has worked closely with composers Alfred Schnittke, György Kurtág, Krzysztof Penderecki, Erik Bergman, Giya Kancheli, Sven-David Sandström, Knut Nystedt, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Brett Dean, R. Murray Schafer, among many others.
 
Kaljuste is renowned as the conductor who founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, the Nargen Opera project theatre, and the Nargen Festival. He has also worked with many other leading orchestras and choirs all over the world. During the 1990s, alongside his work with the EPCC and the TCO, he was also the principal conductor of the Swedish Radio Choir and the Netherlands Chamber Choir. Since 2001 he has worked internationally as a freelance conductor.  His ECM recordings with music of Pärt include  Te Deum,  Litany, Kanon Pokajanen,  Orient &Occident,  In Principio,  and the Grammy-winning Adam’s Lament.
 
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The orchestra now known as the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic was founded in 1945, and until  1949 was both a symphony and an opera orchestra. An independent symphony orchestra from 1954: it became the Witold Lutosławski Philharmonic 40 years later; in memory of the great Polish composer. With the opening Wrocław’s National Forum of Music in 2015, it was renamed the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 March 19 Tivoli Vredenburg Utrecht, Netherlands
2024 March 20 Muziekgebouw Amsterdam, Netherlands
2024 March 21 Schouwburg Concertzaal Tilburg, Netherlands
2024 March 22 deSingel Antwerp, Belgium
2024 March 23 Amare Den Haag, Netherlands