“Tintinnabuli” = PART: Seven Magnificat Antiphons; Magnificat; …which was the son of …; Nunc dimittis; The Woman with the Alabaster Box; Tribute to Caesar; I am the true vine; Triodion – Tallis Scholars/ Peter Phillips – Gimell CDGIM 049, 67:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
In the notes to this outstanding release Peter Phillips tells us that “no music being written today makes a more satisfying match with Renaissance polyphony than the sacred composition of Arvo Part”. Hearing this compilation of music written from around 1989-2001 we certainly get a clear idea of what he is talking about, even though the innards of Renaissance music are far more complex than what Part was offering at this time. The remarkable thing is that while the gears in the machine are so different from 500 years ago, the sound of the modern machine resonates in the same way and offers a spiritual/ emotional journey that is quite similar in many respects.
The music here is taken from the system of composition that Part calls “Tintinnabuli” (from the Latin for “bell”), a method that the composer identified in 1976. When a bell is struck there is a compendium of fundamentals and overtones, the first voice engaged in an arpeggiation of the tonic triad, and the second travelling diatonically in stepwise motion, just as happens when a bell is sounded. Because of this relative simplicity, the slowness of tempos, and the minimal material used, Part at this point came to be identified as one of the “Minimalists”, a label which has some veracity about it, but is far from describing the man’s work. Instead of exploring increasing complex thematic and harmonic systems, Part starts with the simple and prefers to reverse the direction and delve into the inner life of the more static relationships, resulting in music that is rich in tonal opulence and gives one a profound experience of the unique and unadorned triad.
The most famous piece here is probably the Magnificat, but I can’t say I prefer it to any of the others, as all have felicities and special sound worlds associated with them. Merton College Chapel at Oxford again offers superb resonance and lively depth in a soundscape of tremendous range. The Scholars, as usual, are nonpareil.