Mark Powell: A Passion for Pärt

Mark Powell and Arvo Part May 2016
Mark Powell and Arvo Part May 2016

Arvo Pärt and Mark Powell, Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 2016
Videmus nunc per speculum in ænigmate: tunc autem facie ad faciem. Nunc cognosco ex parte: tunc autem cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum. I Cor. XIII.xii

I was in college in 1988. At some point that year I made one of my reasonably frequent visits to the Tower Records near the Space Needle in Seattle. In the Classical Room (remember those!?) there was some amazing music playing, and I stood in silence not really knowing what I was hearing, but intuitively knowing that it was music that I wanted to know more. It was the Passio by Arvo Pärt.

I instantly bought the CD, among the first CDs I ever purchased, from Rob Weltzien, one of the most knowledgeable persons on the planet when it comes to classical recordings. We’re still friends, and he’s still in Seattle and a subscriber to Cappella Romana.

Opening the simple grey package with the words PASSIO printed in blood red and putting the silver disc in the player, I discovered that Pärt’s Passio was presented as a single track of 71 minutes and 40 seconds, which in those days was about as much as you could fit on a single CD. Manfred Eicher at ECM and Arvo himself clearly wanted the listener to experience this piece as its composite whole, and not in sections. I listened and followed the Latin text as it unfolded. When Jesus sings “Consumatum est” I unexpectedly wept. …

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