Mark Powell: A Passion for Pärt
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. …