“Music is my friend, ever-understanding. Compassionate. Forgiving, it’s a comforter, the handkerchief for drying my tears of sadness, the source of my tears of joy. My liberation and flight. But also, a painful thorn in my flesh and soul, that which makes me sober and teaches humility.” Arvo Pärt
Modest about his achievements yet authentically convinced about the role of his music in today’s world, Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) is today’s most performed “classical” composer. For the past forty years, Pärt’s compositions have shown and spoken the influence of multiple layers and global influences – the music of the Orthodox Church, bells, Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, a compositional technique he developed called “tintinnabuli”, and…silence. This particular recording offers a unique cross-section of Pärt’s choral works, revealing the heart, soul and mind of a true master of his language in both text and music.
Gloriæ Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God), under the direction of Richard K. Pugsley, is dedicated to promoting the best of sacred choral music. Several years ago, they began an in depth study of Arvo Pärt, immersing themselves in his compositional style. They sang his music in worship, on tour and in an extensive concert series at the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, MA. Their repertoire includes Arvo Pärt’s larger works such as Passio and Stabat Mater as well as the lesser known and performed L’abbé Agathon and Berliner Mass.
In this recording, the expressive beauty and clarity of Arvo Pärt's music shines through the joyful dance-like rhythms of Peace Upon You, Jerusalem and the glorious setting of Mary’s words in the Magnificat. The masterful L’abbé Agathon sets the scene of this ancient 4th century story of the chance (or was it?) meeting of the hermit Agathon and a leper. After several testings of the hermit’s patience and his generosity, the leper reveals himself to be an angel, and blesses the hermit Agathon, and goes on his way. The final work - a musical landmark in Pårt's career - is Stabat Mater, written to express the passion, agony, and love of Mary at the foot of the cross of her son.
Whether you are searching for refreshment, find yourself in an impossible situation, or ache in a deep place that is beyond what words can express, consider the words of Arvo Pärt, “Music is my friend, ever-understanding. Compassionate. Forgiving, it’s a comforter, the handkerchief for drying my tears of sadness, the source of my tears of joy."
- “***** FIVE STARS - An exquisite disc of choral music by Arvo Pärt”
There have been a number of recordings of Stabat Mater. This one stands near or at the top of the competitive pile. Although much of the music is marked by the typical inward-looking quietness we associate with Pärt, there are contrasting sections of great drama. Conductor Richard Pugsley and his choral and instrumental forces scale everything perfectly...This is music that presents the listener with both pain and consolation, and it is incumbent on the performers to figure out how to unite those contrasting elements. It is accomplished in large part by taking great care with transitions, whether they are transitions of tempo, color, or dynamics. The bridging from one mood to the other must be judicious and very thoughtfully handled.
There are many discs featuring Pärt’s choral writing...this is one of the finest...Their intonation is impeccable, their blending of voices is complete, and their ability to produce ethereal pianissimi while maintaining tonal body is very special. Pugsley keeps a firm pulse on music that could, and sometimes does, lose its shape under less capable hands. The recorded sound finds the right balance between spaciousness and clarity, and James E. Jordan’s notes are very informative. Finally, great praise to Gloriæ Dei Cantores for providing, on their own label, complete texts and translations. Recommended with enthusiasm.”
Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Gloriae Dei Cantores...under the direction of Richard K. Pugsley, interprets these works with great technical mastery (homogenity, attention to dynamics, phrasing)...creating pure atmospheres of enchantment, which truly touch the heart and soul of the listener, transporting them to a high and profound spiritual dimension. In this high-level context, the technical-vocal qualities, the interpretive sensitivity of the soloists, from the luminous sopranos...to the beautiful baritone timbre also stand out.”
GPOpera Magazine (Italy)
- “This grave and beautiful new SACD...blows an unexpectedly warm breeze on the Estonian composer’s music...These works expand our knowledge of who Pärt is as a composer, and they are performed with great polish—but also with a purity that feels uniquely unaffected—by Gloriæ Dei Cantores and by soloists from the choir...There is a warmth here that one does not as readily hear in European recordings of these works. Indeed, the closing minutes of the Stabat Mater are heartbreaking on this new recording. Part of the reason, I think, is that the engineers have brought Gloriæ Dei Cantores into the foreground; the European recordings keep the singers further back, effectively objectifying them. However, one must admit that these new American versions simply are more emotional...I am sure it is no coincidence that this SACD has been released during Lent, although no one could have foreseen that it would be released during the novel coronavirus pandemic as well. In troubling and uncertain times, this is just what the doctor ordered, no matter what your spiritual beliefs might be.”
- “All the selections on this disc are excellent. This is very serious music...possessing the serious, dead-on presentation that the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used in bringing us into the Divine reality of Christ’s life, Passion, Death and Resurrection. To move beyond sentimental meditation into being present is a great gift, and Arvo Pärt gets us there in his work.
This is more evident when taken into account that the performers of Gloriae Dei Cantores and Richard Pugsley approach this work steeped primarily in the Benedictine tradition of the Christian West. In listening to this disc, I cannot imagine a better interpretation of this music, both technically and spiritually, than what is presented here. A true meeting of East and West, neither side excluding the other, but standing united in the Truth of Christ. This is what happens on this disc.
The recording is superb. Maestro Pugsley, Paul Tingley co-produced this record, and the recording engineers Brad Michel and Dan Pfeiffer did a superlative job bringing this recording to life. The presence of the choir and orchestra is intimate and spacious at the same time, with all nuances of voice and instrument flawlessly presented to the listener...
I enthusiastically and gratefully congratulate this team on an absolutely amazing work.”
Seraphim Hanisch, OrthoChristian.com
- “Gloriae Dei Cantores develop the flow of the music with a sense of creative sensitivity...Thus it becomes clear that Arvo Pärt’s music conveys a universal message.
The soloists are totally convincing with contributions that stand out ...With technical preparation that leaves nothing to be desired, the recording, released on the ensemble’s own label, gives a successful impression of these choral works.”