On 10 November, acclaimed record label ECM released Arvo Pärt’s latest original album, Tractus. The album features performances of the composer’s most recent work by the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, and soprano Maria Listra. Tractus includes new arrangements and recordings performed under the direction of conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. This new release marks Arvo Pärt’s seventeenth album in his longstanding collaboration with legendary ECM producer Manfred Eicher.
Curated by Tõnu Kaljuste, the selection of Arvo Pärt’s pieces featured on the album blends the timbres and textures of choir and string orchestra. These works were composed over the past few decades and provide a cross-section of the composer’s more recent oeuvre. The album takes its name from the opening track, Littlemore Tractus, whose ethereal prayer verses set the mood for the entire collection. In contemplation of the twilight of life, this prayer encourages listeners to pause, reflect and find inner tranquillity amidst the rush of life.
“Since Arvo Pärt has retired from active composition, some of his works, previously unrecorded but often discussed between Arvo and myself in recent years, have been beckoning me from the shelves,” Tõnu Kaljuste explains. “Our discussions with Arvo have revolved around new versions and past premieres. This album is a collection of those two,” says Kaljuste, explaining the album’s origin.
The pieces chosen for this album have not previously been recorded with this group of performers. Kaljuste, who has more than 30 years of experience with Pärt’s music and has conducted numerous premieres and debut recordings, now fills this gap in collaboration with the ensembles he founded – the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Many of the arrangements were born from the conductor’s own vision.
The debut recording of Greater Antiphons, along with Cantique des degrés and These Words…, departs from the original composition for large symphony orchestra to embrace the more intimate sound of chamber music. A brand-new arrangement is also featured on the album. In the opening piece, Littlemore Tractus, initially written for choir and organ and alternatively titled Swansong in its version for large symphony orchestra, Kaljuste unites the choir and chamber orchestra, preserving the original piece’s tonal clarity. L’abbé Agathon for soprano and string orchestra, Vater unser in Tõnu Kõrvits’ adaptation, and Pärt’s own newer version of Veni creator all make their recording debut.
The recording sessions took place in February and September last year at the Methodist Church in Tallinn, overseen by sound engineer Tammo Sumera. The album’s producer is Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM, whose longstanding collaboration with Arvo Pärt has now led to the composer’s seventeenth original album.
The album is accompanied by a 44-page booklet featuring the original texts of the compositions in their native language, accompanied by English translations, and essays on Pärt’s music by German musicologist and critic Wolfgang Sandner, alongside contributions from Kai Kutman of the Arvo Pärt Centre.
Initially released on CD, the album will soon be available as a two-disc LP.