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Vale of Glamorgan festival

The Guardian – Rian Evans – Over the years, the music of Arvo Pärt has claimed a special place in the Vale of Glamorgan festival. The relationship was cemented when he made his first visit in 1996, and Pärt has reaffirmed it this year by coming back for the festival's celebration of his 75th birthday, which falls on Saturday.

He was present for the UK premieres of four of his works by the Cello Octet Amsterdam in the Bradenstoke Hall of St Donat's Castle. Its monastic austerity offered an appropriate setting for the bell-like tones of Pärt's tintinnabulist style – not to mention his own rather monk-like appearance (though he was, on this occasion, happily beaming). The composer's arrangement of his Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen, renamed simply O-Antiphonen, was particularly evocative in this context, achieving both a gentle intimacy and the sense that all eight instruments were aspiring to the vibrant quality of the voices for which the antiphons were originally conceived.

On the previous evening, the magnificent Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir had sung Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen. This canon of repentance made St Augustine's church reverberate as though it were Cologne Cathedral, where the choir first performed the work, commissioned to mark 750 years since the cathedral's foundation in 1998. For the most part, this 70-minute piece of a cappella singing is deeply penitential. But the transformative nature of repentance is reflected in the final prayer, as the plangent solo trio turns to vast surges of sound, followed by the serene and ethereal Amen. Conductor Daniel Reuss kept the choir under tight control while also allowing its distinctive vocal timbre to colour the stark melodic lines, underlining the work's rich, powerfully resonant passages.