Arvo Pärt came across the story of the fourth century Christian hermit Agathon, who lived alone in the Egyptian desert. Agathon met a leper who tested his Christian mettle through a series of tests. Once Agathon met the challenge, the leper revealed himself as an angel of God, and Agathon was blessed. Thus the story goes that inspired Estonian composer to pen his L’Abbé Agathon, a choral work that adopts some characteristics from Opera, some from Oratorio, and which creates in its own unique manner a compelling musical narrative featured in a new NAXOS release of Arvo Pärt choral music by the extraordinarily gifted Gloriae Dei Cantores in their very own label.
The album – available on several platforms – also includes five other works by the Estonian master. An ethereal hymn to the Virgin mother, Salve Regina and an intensely emotional Magnificat, a heartfelt Nunc dimitis, and the closing Stabat Mater, a celebratory choral-instrumental paean to Mary exemplify the compositional breadth and depth of Arvo Pärt, an iconic 20th century musical genius who has traversed from an early career dalliance with Atonalism to a sui generis mature aesthetic he termed Tintinnabulation whose roots grow out of Medieval Chant and Renaissance Polyphony.
Pärt’s compositions are impeccably sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores: immaculately musical, pure of tone, perfect of diction, the superb ensemble is powerfully led by Richard K. Pugsley in an album that should provide the listener, as it did me, with a quiet hour of utterly peaceful music.
Rafael de Acha www.RafaelMusicNotes.com