“I’ve been a fan of Cappella Romana for a few years now, and they have thoroughly enriched our understanding of Orthodox choral music from all over the world. Director Alexander Lingas – who also provides the detailed, yet accessible notes for this release – marshals his forces to create an immaculate blend and an ethereal experience. … [Steinberg’s] writing is distinctive in its own way and wholly captivating … there is much to savor in the beautiful harmonies and soaring melodies. Cappella Romana does this sort of thing better than anyone, and there is literally nothing to criticize from a technical standpoint. … The texts and translations are always welcome, and the whole project is as well-crafted and professional as one could wish. This is a major addition to any choral library.” —Brian Wigman, ClassicalNet
“Passion Week is one of the finest and most moving Orthodox settings that I’ve encountered and I’ve been excited by getting to know it. It’s particularly pleasing that this music should receive its first recording from such a fine choir: Cappella Romana have done Steinberg proud.
Every aspect of the presentation of this release is first rate. The recording is excellent. The acoustic of St Stephen Catholic Church is warm and sympathetic and the engineers have conveyed the right amount of natural resonance without letting the sound of the choir become diffuse in any way. The singers are nicely balanced and lots of detail registers. There’s a fine dynamic range and the climaxes open up in a very satisfying way. The booklet is excellent, not least for the absorbing essay about the music by Alexander Lingas.” —John Quinn
Sarah Bryan Miller says Passion Week helps to “fill the gap” in music for Holy Week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“In ‘Passion Week,’ which receives its world premiere recording here, that style is lushly traditional in the Russian Orthodox style. It’s paired with Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Chants for Holy Week.’ It’s all beautifully sung by Cappella Romana, a Portland, Ore.-based professional choir. It provides a satisfying musical tour of the conclusion of the season of Lent.” —Sarah Bryan Miller, Passion Week
Audiophile Audition gives Maximilian Steinberg: Passion Week a Five-Star review!
“[Maximilian Steinberg’s] music is pretty much sunk in obscurity…Until now, that is. … His Op. 13 Passion Week is his seminal work in the genre, actually more a collection of pieces selected from various Holy Week services that could be used outside of the opus whole. It disappeared for many years to be found only in a few private hands. Fortunately one of these was an émigré Russian conductor named Igor Buketoff, who tried for years to get it performed (this is not easy music, and removed from the capabilities of most parish choirs). Ultimately it ended up in the hands of Alexander Lingas, and so here we go. … Once again Alexander Lingas and his intrepid crew provide sterling and gorgeously recorded music in exacting and beautifully defined performances. Some will balk at a non-Russian choral group daring to sing this music—I have heard this nonsense before, and in fact my favorite recordings of the Rachmaninov Vigil are all non-Russian ensembles—but I think Steinberg would be the first to applaud this. The perfect Lenten gift has just become available.” —Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
AllMusic.com’s James Manheim has a new review for our Good Friday In Jerusalem release!
“It takes a good deal of scholarly effort to reconstruct a program like this from manuscripts in various places (some are Armenian) and at various levels of notational detail. The result, though, is spectacular. The chants were sung (if this reconstruction is correct) with a low drone note whose resonances are well engineered here, and the chant melodies themselves are densely ornate. The singers of the Cappella Romana execute them crisply and with a sense of connection to the texts, all of which are given in translation in the booklet from Greek to English. … Recommended not only for those planning a trip to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but to anyone curious about Byzantine chant in general.” —James Manheim, AllMusic
The Orthodox Arts Journal‘s Benedict Sheehan gives Cappella Romana’s upcoming Maximilian Steinberg Passion Week an absolute rave:
“Every so often a record comes along that changes the landscape of choral music.…The work itself is the sort of thing musicologists dream about: a treasure of inestimable musical value, hidden away in some attic or dusty library stack, unknown for nearly a century. Similar to conductor Johann von Herbeck happening upon Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony nearly forty years after the composer’s death, the discovery of Steinberg’s Passion Week is cause for celebration among lovers of music. It is a profoundly moving piece of sacred choral literature, and a masterwork of compositional craft. … While the discovery of this long-lost major work of sacred choral music is a milestone in the history of the literature, in no lesser degree is Cappella Romana’s rendering of the piece a landmark contribution to the modern canon of choral recordings. In every respect, and I don’t use these words lightly, their new disc is a triumph. Using their characteristic radiantly bright and clear sound—a welcome relief from the proliferation of performances that seem to be stuck in the wrong-headed notion that Russian sacred music has to be dark, dramatic, and ponderous, with a superabundance of vocal “cover”—Alexander Lingas and the singers of Cappella Romana bring a highly refined musical sensibility to the Steinberg score. Every vocal line is luminously present to the ear, every musical idea carefully considered and totally convincing. The solos in the piece too emerge seamlessly from the ensemble like subtly brighter beams of light, commanding but never dominating or seizing attention too boldly. Of particular note are the brief but captivating solos of baritone (and executive director of the ensemble) Mark Powell and soprano Catherine van der Salm. … Such a beautiful work deserves the attention of the world. However, if it is going to capture the world’s attention it needs a vehicle, and I will be surprised if anyone can offer a better one than Cappella Romana’s new record anytime soon. Indeed, though it’s only March, I will be surprised if a better choral recording of anything comes out this year.” —Benedict Sheehan, Orthodox Arts Journal
The Oregonian‘s David Stabler features our Amazon chart-topping Good Friday In Jerusalem release:
“Alexander Lingas leads Cappella’s all-male version in stirring performances, anchored by bass drones underneath meditative melody. The feeling is profound, devotional and powerful in its simplicity, reflecting the pathos of Good Friday, the day Christ died. … Holding drone pitches and singing unisons are among the trickiest passages for singers to sustain, yet Cappella navigates these difficulties naturally and gracefully. This is music in their wheelhouse.” —David Stabler, The Oregonian
Richard Barrett reviews the Cappella Romana Arctic Light recording on his Leitourgeia kai Qurbana blog:
“Where there is an intriguing religious culture, one hopes there will also be an intriguing culture of religious music, and Fr. Ivan Moody, conducting Cappella Romana, makes the case for the music of the Orthodox Church of Finland on the disc Arctic Light: Finnish Orthodox Music. … it’s an aural treat in every way, with the vowel-rich language sparkling in the voices of Cappella’s singers. One can hear the Finnish language “in dialogue” with the ecclesiastical past of its country… Fr. Ivan as the conductor gets Cappella Romana singing this kind of polyphonic repertoire as well as they have in years; the choir sounds bright, clear, and musical. … The result is that Fr. Ivan and Cappella Romana are able make some beautiful, engaging music within that context, and provide a fascinating snapshot of an Orthodox musical culture that is developing its own very strong voice. Recommended.” —Richard Barrett
Before this weekend’s presentations of The Fall of Constantinople, here’s a look back at Gramophone Magazine’s review of our recording of this repertoire:
“English-speaking audiences commonly associate Greek Orthodox plainchant with the music of John Tavener, whose work draws substantially from its ethos. This recording confronts plainchant with the compositions of another Western composer, albeit one from the 15th century, when the two Christian churches were nearly reunited after a thousand-year split. It’s even likely that Dufay’s singers and their Eastern counterparts had a chance to hear each other in Florence. But these attempts at reconciliation came to nothing, and in 1453 came the event after which this disc is named, and to which Dufay devoted a commemorative lament, which concludes this recital very movingly.
The performance of Wester polyphony with voices trained in, or inflected by, Eastern chant is not unfamiliar — Ensemble Organum have been doing it for years. To do so, it’s not necessary to invoke a context within which the two might have commingled; as Alexander Lingas observes in his informative note, it’s likely that the Greeks found Dufay’s polyphony “incomprehensible”. But it must have been a fascinating confrontation, and it’s that sense of occasion that’s conveyed here. The range of performance options for the plainchant itself is surprisingly diverse, and an intriguing new light is shed on Dufay’s motets: the five-voice Apostolo gorioso is particularly striking, although Ecclesiae militantis is a touch less sure. The singers are miked more distantly than is usual nowadays for polyphony, but this only adds to the sense of pleasurable unfamiliarity.” —Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone Magazine