Review

Early Music America: Reveling in Byzantine Chant

Philippa Kiraly has published a wonderful feature including reviews and interviews with Mark Powell and Alexander Lingas in honor of our 25th Season, as well as a preview of our upcoming Hagia Sophia “Icons of Sound” recording:

“Cappella Romana opened its 25th season in October in Seattle and Portland with “Icons of Sound: Byzantine Chant from Hagia Sophia.” Enhanced by the reverberant acoustics of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, the sound of early Byzantine church music created a hypnotic effect as eight men — more than half of them Greek Orthodox cantors — and five women sang music from scholarly editions, much of it prepared by the singers themselves.…

“The sound created by Cappella Romana’s men singing early chant is like nothing heard elsewhere. There’s an initial firm start to phrases that seems almost to come from under the note, though it doesn’t. There’s a rich resonance, a strongly cored, open sound with a lot of depth, and no vibrato. The music often has a limited range, spanning not much more than an octave, while its highly ornamented melodies are usually sung over one or more drones that indicate the tetrachord (a four-note range) of the mode in use. When you hear the ensemble, it only takes a few measures to know that this is Cappella Romana.…

“Participation since 2010 in Cappella Romana’s ongoing Stanford Research Project — from which the October concert was a natural offshoot — had the choir heading to San Francisco immediately after the Hagia Sophia concert. “Icons of Sound: Aesthetics and Acoustics of Hagia Sophia” was a collaboration between Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and the Department of Art and Art History.

The aim was to use real-time digital signal processing to synthesize the acoustics of Hagia Sophia itself. In Istanbul, the Stanford crew was allowed only to work in the middle of the night. They popped balloons in Hagia Sophia, measuring the reverberation times and signal response at all frequencies around the cathedral, capturing this information into their computers, and bringing the results back to Stanford. Cappella Romana’s part was to sing while wearing tiny microphones on their foreheads in Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, with the signals processed and distributed to an array of 24 loudspeakers distributed throughout the hall. “I was prepared for it to sound fake,” says Powell, “but it sounded and felt like the real thing.”

The resulting Cappella Romana CD will likely come out in 2017, adding to its catalog of more than 20 recordings. To get a taste of the ensemble’s distinctive and unmistakable sound, go to YouTube to find dozens of excerpts.…” —Philippa Kiraly, Early Music America

See the full feature on Early Music America

Smithsonian Magazine Features Icons of Sound

Our “Icons of Sound” concert and collaboration with Stanford University gets a fantastic feature in the Smithsonian Magazine:

“Hagia Sophia, a former church and mosque, is an important part of Istanbul’s long history. Who knew its sublime sound could be transferred to Stanford? Twice in the past few years, Stanford scholars and scientists have worked to digitally recreate the experience of being in Hagia Sophia when it was a medieval church. Collaborating with choral group Cappella Romana, they digitally recreated the former holy building’s acoustics, and performed medieval church music in the university’s Bing Concert Hall as if it was Hagia Sophia. Their efforts are part of a multi-year collaboration between departments at Stanford that asks the question: can modern technology help us go back in time? … The music that Cappella Romana performs is historical Christian music. Much of their work for the Hagia Sophia project has not been heard in centuries, writes Jason Victor Serinus for Stanford’s events blog. It certainly hasn’t been performed in the former church in all that time. … There’s no substitute for being there, as the saying goes. But since it’s impossible to travel back in time to be present at a tenth-century church service, this is maybe the next best thing.” —Kat Eschner, Smithsonian Magazine

See the full feature on SmithsonianMag.com

Cyprus Named a Recording of the Year

Cyprus: Between Greek East and Latin West

MusicWeb International critic Johan van Veen names our Cyprus: Between Greek East & Latin West a 2016 Recording of the Year!

“Cappella Romana is an ensemble which specializes in early and contemporary music of the Christian East and West. This explains that the programme recorded here sounds very idiomatic. The singing is impressive and the liturgical character of the chants selected for this disc comes off convincingly.”

See the full MusicWeb International list at www.musicweb-international.com, and read Johan van Veen’s orignal review of the recording!

Artslandia Reviews Handel’s Messiah

Handel's Messiah with Monica Huggett conducting

Handel's Messiah with Monica Huggett conducting

“…since 2010 the choruses have been sung by Cappella Romana, the city’s finest choir.… Given their long experience with the piece (and a wide range of other music besides), Cappella Romana was unsurprisingly terrific; their performance was a model of Handel performance and worth the price of admission on its own. Within and across sections, blend and intonation were impeccable, and attention to the text so careful you could have taken dictation. Some moments—“For unto us a child is born,” for example, were pure choral pleasure, while others, such as “Let all the angels” and “The Lord gave the word,” conveyed the implacable force of a fiery sermon.” —James McQuillen, Artslandia

Read the full review on artslandia.com

Steinberg: Passion Week a Gramophone Recording of the Year

Steinberg: Passion WeekGramophone Magazine released their 2015 Recordings of the Year issue and included our Maximilian Steinberg: Passion Week recording!

“This important and exciting release from the Portland, Oregon-based 26-strong chamber choir is a notable successor to their ‘Good Friday in Jerusalem’ disc (5/15). … This recording closely followed what is believed to have been the premiere complete performance by these forces. … The a cappella textures spread variously and luxuriantly into 12 parts, requiring, as might be expected, the sopranos to soar with jewel-like brilliance and the basses to delve to their reedy subterranean depths. Cappella Romana cope with all of this with an eloquent brilliance, singing with tremendous relish, as though this obscure masterpiece had been in their repertory for years. Their unanimity of attack and fastidious approach to dynamic contrasts are just two hallmarks of an outstanding achievement. Hats off, too, to Preston Smith and Steve Barnett for their superb engineering and production. …the finest advocacy from these fine musicians. This is definitely a disc to savour.” —Malcolm Riley, Gramophone Magazine

Buy The CD & The VINYL Today!

Expedition Audio Reviews Steinberg: Passion Week!

Steinberg: Passion WeekPaul Ballyk of Expedition Audio has a rave review for our Maximilian Steinberg: Passion Week recording!

Passion Week is a profoundly moving composition. From the opening, monophonic tones, it is clear that ancient chant is central to the work’s structure – in fact, all but one of the eleven sections is based directly on a traditional chant. However, Steinberg’s harmonies quickly flower into the rich tonalities and textures that are his legacy of the late Russian Romantic tradition of Rachmaninov, Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov. … Cappella Romana, a group founded with the purpose of exploring the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, sound quintessential in this repertoire. This is a unique and beautiful recording, one that deserves to be discovered and loved by many.” —Paul Ballyk, Expedition Audio

See the full review on ExpeditionAudio.com

Buy The CD & The VINYL Today!

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Early Music America Reviews Good Friday in Jerusalem

Good Friday In Jerusalem: Medieval Byzantine Chant from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Good Friday In Jerusalem: Medieval Byzantine Chant from the Church of the Holy SepulchreDonald Rosenberg reviews our Good Friday In Jerusalem recording in Early Music America Magazine:

“Here Cappella Romana travels back to the roots of Byzanitne chant to recreate a Good Friday service through the music of the 8th and 9th centuries. The recording shot to the top of Amazon and Billboard charts when released, and it takes only a few seconds to understand why listeners have been mesmerized. From the moment the ensemble’s cavernous basses intone drones that anchor extended, contemplative chants, you won’t be able to tear yourself away from your speakers or earbuds. … The disc, the ensemble’s 20th, was recorded in Stanford University’s Memorial Church, a space of subtle resonance that allows the music to float on a halo of sound without ever becoming hazy. The singers of Cappella Romana…sustain the long phrases with remarkable finesse and breath control, including those intrepid basses, who appear to possess endless reserves of air. Along with tonal beauty, the ensemble brings utmost clarity to texts that inspired music of ecstatic and penetrating splendor. The soloists, the Greek-born Stelios Kontakiotis and Portland native John Michael Boyer, are eloquent champions of chant.” —Donald Rosenberg, Early Music America

See the full review in the Fall 2015 issue of Early Music America

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Gramophone Magazine Names Steinberg: Passion Week An Editor’s Choice!

Steinberg: Passion Week

Steinberg: Passion WeekGramophone Magazine names our new Maximilian Steinberg: Passion Week recording an August Editor’s Choice!

“This important and exciting release from the Portland, Oregon-based 26-strong chamber choir is a notable successor to their ‘Good Friday in Jerusalem’ disc (5/15). … This recording closely followed what is believed to have been the premiere complete performance by these forces. … The a cappella textures spread variously and luxuriantly into 12 parts, requiring, as might be expected, the sopranos to soar with jewel-like brilliance and the basses to delve to their reedy subterranean depths. Cappella Romana cope with all of this with an eloquent brilliance, singing with tremendous relish, as though this obscure masterpiece had been in their repertory for years. Their unanimity of attack and fastidious approach to dynamic contrasts are just two hallmarks of an outstanding achievement. Hats off, too, to Preston Smith and Steve Barnett for their superb engineering and production. …the finest advocacy from these fine musicians. This is definitely a disc to savour.” —Malcolm Riley, Gramophone Magazine

Read the full review on www.gramophone.co.uk!

Buy The CD & The VINYL Today!

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Planet Hugill Reviews Maximilian Steinberg: Passion Week

Steinberg: Passion Week

Steinberg: Passion WeekRobert Hugill has a new review for our “Remarkable re-discovery” of Maximilian Steinberg’s Passion Week:

“Musically it is very much in the same genre as Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil (Vespers), the chant in Steinberg’s work has similar recognisable outlines. Steinberg’s harmony is more classical…and the chants stand out more in Steinberg. …Quite romantic in texture, it is approached in a similar vein by the choir which gives a beautiful shapeliness to phrases, and a nice clarity.… [There are] some ravishing moments such as the trio No. 8 Exaposteilarion: The Wise Thief and the fine tenor solo in No.9 Canon, Ode 9, Heirmos: Do not weep for me mother. I was struck by Alexander Lingas’ very steady tempos… The pairing with the Rimsky-Korsakov provides some very beautiful singing and a further illuminating glimpse into the history of Russian sacred music. … [Cappella Romana is] clearly a very capable and flexible choir and anyone interested in Orthodox and Byzantine chant should keep an eye open for them. Maximilian Steinberg’s Passion Week is a major work which deserves to be better known. … Alexander Lingas and Capella Romana are to be congratulated on their scholarship in recovering the work, and their fine recording.” —Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

See the full review on PlanetHugill.com

Buy The CD & The VINYL Today!

Guarantee Tickets to Next Season’s Passion Week Performance:

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All 2015-2016 Series Concerts:

Good Friday In Jerusalem in Early Music Review

Good Friday In Jerusalem: Medieval Byzantine Chant from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Good Friday In Jerusalem: Medieval Byzantine Chant from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

“Alexander Lingas, in collaboration with Ioannis Arvanitis, is fortunate in being able to reify his archival researches into Medieval Byzantine chant by means of Cappella Romana’s fine musical skills and their recording team. … we can rejoice that these rites are preserved from a Holy Land now surrounded by architectural, human and cultural destruction.” —Diana Maynard, Early Music Review

See the full review at www.earlymusicreview.com

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