Sunday, July 03, 2005

Arvo Pärt Passio

All the records in his slot have Latin religious titles, so we will generalize that they are all similar. I will be discussing the choral work The Passion of our Lord according to Saint John.

The texture of the music is very much like some of the works recorded by Anonymous 4. Medieval. The number of voices changes but the chant-like quality of the music does not. It is like free organum or the music of Leonin and Perotin, only with precisely one syllable to one note, all voices in the same rhythm.

Except that it isn't. The harmonic language is distinctly modern with lots of dissonance, and not the harmony based on fourths used by Leonin and Perotin. Instruments accompany.

At first, being used to Bach, I found the evangelist confusing until I realized that he is using a quartet of soloists in ever changing combinations instead of Bach's lyric tenor. Jesus is a bass.

It's mysterious and haunting. You would expect to pray.

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