Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Alina

Arvo Pärt

ECM Records

  1999

 

 

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If you're fortunate enough to have a New Age section in your local music store, it is highly unlikely you will find this gem there. More likely than not, however, there it will be: proudly in the Classical Section. Quite what the difference is, and what the requirements are to be in one as opposed to the other, have never been clear- but your search will have been worth it when you get to listen to this stunning CD.

 

Arvo Pärt was born in 1935 in Estonia. He began composing in the 1950s and, most recently, has been concentrating on religious works. Alina dates back to 1976 when Pärt was experimenting with a new style of composing- a process he called tintinnabulation. In a nutshell, this involved a consistent lone triad occurring throughout a composition.

The ensuing product was an album which consisted of two different melodies contained within five tracks, with variations in each. In Alina, Tracks 1, 3 and 5 ("Spiegel im Spiegel") are the same composition in different forms, and likewise for Tracks 2 and 4 ("Für Alina").

"Spiegel" is German for mirror. Pärt sees his work as a prism. It separates the white light of a composition and allows the listener to take in the "colours" of the music in their purest form. The track "Spiegel im Spiegel" is perhaps the most beautiful track I own. It is stunning in its simplicity, but this is what makes it so gorgeous. Pärt's tintinnabulation technique means no note is wasted- it focuses the listener on each individual note. The first version of this achingly beautiful piece features Sergej Bezrodny on piano and Vladimir Spivakov on violin. Lie back, relax and allow the music to consume you. Can there be a more exquisite composition on the planet?

The melody is repeated as Track 3, but this time the cello replaces the violin. The tempo is also increased slightly. Alexander Malter takes his turn at the piano, and Dietmar Schwalke's playing of the violoncello gives the piece a softer, more mellow sound. Track five is a repeat of the first track, but is slightly shorter in form.

In between the three versions of Spiegel im Spiegel, lies an equally stunning piano piece called "Für Alina" As with the other composition on this album, this piece is nothing short of amazing. Beautifully simple, minimalist piano. Für Alina makes up Tracks 2 and 4 on the CD.

It has been said that a novice piano student would be able to play the piano for these pieces. However, when a simple melody is played, the timing is all important, and it is the stunning playing of Bezrodny and Malter that bring Pärt's compositions to life.

The only gripe- and it is minor- with this CD, is the unusually quiet recording level, resulting in the volume having to be significantly increased. This altering of the dynamics should be remembered before the listener blows their speakers whilst playing a different CD!

Alina is an extraordinary CD, and is a must-have purchase if the reader enjoys soothing, soporific piano music, expertly played by some of the finest musicians in the World.

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

Alina

Arvo Pärt

 

 

 

 

 

Arvo Pärt