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Alina Part: Alina

For over a decade, ECM records has provided a vital service in lending an ear to the musical profundity emanating from composers out of Estonia. Most notably, the German label-its ECM New Series, specifically-has helped to make Arvo Part one of the leading composers alive, beloved by critics and audiences alike (a rare situation in contemporary “serious” music: look at the radically divided critical jury on Philip Glass). The latest concentration of sounds from the ECM-Estonia accord: three striking albums by Part, Erkki-Sven Tuur and Veljo Tormis that reach a new peak of cultural importance.

Of particular interest is the very quietly astonishing new Part recording, Alina (ECM New Series 1591; 51:23). The packaging itself is a model of minimalist daring, with its replication of only two pieces: three versions of his cathartically floating “Spiegel Im Spiegel,” for piano and violin (or cello), are woven around two versions of his breakthrough 1976 piece “Fur Alina,” a solo piano work in which he first came upon his mature, pared-down style after going through a more rigorous modernist period. This music is achingly beautiful, and simple to the point where the willing listener succumbs to a depth of innocent appreciation. Give in to its delicate fabric of bowed long tones and soft piano arpeggios, and you’re lost to the world. Or, more to the point, you’re privy to another world, one of Part’s creation and channeling.

Originally Published