Boomkat Product Review:
Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which so much contemporary classical music has been measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most understated and beautiful piece of work.
Für Alina was first performed in Tallinn in 1976, and has become one of Pärt’s most-loved and widely appreciated works - regarded by many as an early, defining example of his signature tintinnabuli style. In the years since its release, Pärt has become the most performed living composer in the world, his approach to religious music seeping deep into our cultural landscape, from the avant garde to the mainstream.
Rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, this definitive ECM version from 1999 features Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions, handpicked by Pärt himself from recordings that were originally several hours long. It’s a masterclass in simplicity; an almost painfully beautiful rendering of emotional landscapes that, in the wrong hands, could have (and has, on many occasions, by so many) turned to schmaltz.
For better or for worse, 'Spiegel Im Spiegel' and 'Fur Alina' have both come to be seen as blueprints for a specific strain of solo piano and classical minimalism designed to manipulate and heighten emotive states, as seen in so many films, adverts and idents. In that respect, one could argue that these pieces are indirectly responsible for numerous heavy-handed, emotionally empty, easy-on-the-ear abominations over the decades. And yet, if you listen carefully, Pärt's ability to distil so much emotion and spirituality into his work from so little is ultimately impossible to emulate; regardless of how many times you've heard them, these pieces never cease to transport you elsewhere.
If you're new to Arvo Pärt, Alina is perhaps the perfect entry point for exploring his monumental, peerless canon.