Arvo Pärt is probably the most well known composer in minimalist music today, thanks largely to his association with ECM Records. His first recording for the label, Tabula Rasa was released in 1984, and was enormously influential. Celebrating his 25th anniversary with the label, ECM has just released In Principio, and it is a marvel.
In Principio consists of six compositions. They are: “In Principio,” “La Sindone,” “Cecilia Vergine Romana,” “Da Pacem Domine,” “Mein Weg” and “Für Lennart In Memoriam”. The titles are all in German, however this mostly instrumental work transcends nationalities. Literally “In principio” translates to “In the beginning” as the text for the piece is from the Gospel of John, 1 1:14.
Pärt is a deeply spiritual composer, and much of his work in informed by the early history of Christianity. “La Sindone” concerns the Shroud of Turin, “Cecilia Vergine Romana” refers to the Christian St. Cecilia, martyred for her devout belief, early in the second century A.D. Pärt composed “Für Lennart In Memoriam” for the burial service of his friend Lennart Meri. Meri was President of Pärt’s homeland, The Republic of Estonia from 1992 to 2001.
"Da Pacem Domine" is a prayer piece for the victims of the Madrid bombing of March 11, 2004. It is performed in Spain every year to commemorate the tragedy. "Mein Weg" was originally written in 1989 for organ. Pärt has revised it for 14 strings and percussion for inclusion here.
In Principio certainly conforms to the accepted notions of minimalist music, of which Pärt has been a pioneer. With a mixture of Gregorian Chant, subtlety, and superior musicianship, In Principio is a fine addition to the canon of Arvo Pärt. The works are performed by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Chor, and the Talinn Chamber Orchestra. Tõnu Kaljuste is the conductor.