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Arvo Pärt

Even though I've told myself over and over again that I'm going to try to stop worrying about things so much, I always manage to find something to think about and either cause some sort of stress or sadness in my life. It's certainly easy enough to feel this way on a regular basis simply by picking up a newspaper and reading it or by turning on the television and watching some news coverage, but there are some days when things seem to have gotten so acute that even interpersonal slights that I see happen around me seem to affect me in little ways.

Now that I've gone off and sounded like a complete sad sack or an overly sensitive type, I suppose I should say that even when I feel like the above, there are only a couple musical solutions I can use in combatting the mood. One way is to simply bludgeon the feeling into submission with some sort of upbeat and/or loud style of music, which usually leads me to simply forget about the issues at hand and move onto something else. There are other times, though, when I'm looking for a piece of music that actually contains some of those aching feelings as well as a little bit of hope, and for those times, one of my favorite pieces of music is Alina by Arvo Pärt.

Pärt has been composing music for some time now, and has completed many huge works for orchestra and/or choirs (my favorites of those works being either Kanon Pokajanen or Te Deum), but in addition to that work has also composed many pieces for smaller bodies of instrumentation. Alina is one of those pieces, and yet it is the work of his that I find myself returning to the most. It's sparse, and some would even say simple, but it's personal and human and at times nearly devastating.

The release is actually comprised of only two pieces, with two variations of one, and three of the other. "Spiegel Im Spiegel" bookends the release, as well as providing the centerpiece. The opening and closing interpretations both feature only piano and violin, with the strings providing clean, subtle tonal backdrops while the piano plays repeated phrases that move back and forth between major and minor keys. The middle performance of the track finds the violin switching to violincello, providing just a slightly deeper and more rich backdrop for the piano, and the effect is barely noticible but effective.

The other two tracks are "Für Alina," and are comprised of stark piano, which shifts subtley in tempo and rhythm and are so pure that they feel like they're being written as they're played, like some sort of sad lament that struggles ever so slightly to find the right words, but because of the short pauses feels even more potent once the emotion is finally poured out. On the release, the five tracks run just over fifty minutes, and even though several of the pieces are different variations on one another, it's one of those recordings that simply seeps into your being. One of the more touching pieces of music I've ever heard.

Rating: 9.5