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GRAMOPHONE (05/2015)
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Cappella Romana

Code-barres / Barcode : 0889176423413


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Reviewer: Caroline Gill

It would be difficult to find a group more steeped in serious musicological research than Cappella Romana, and their discs of music of the Byzantine tradition (mainly medieval chant but also modern, related works) have, as a result, a general sense of quiet elegance and authority. Their recording of music for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is no exception, and as such is one that not only stands up as a sound world of unique beauty but as a reference for composers writing into their music an influence that is constantly expanding and changing. That this is niche repertoire is undeniable but it is also certain that the context Cappella Romana give it is thrilling beyond its academic value on the page. Much of it untouched for half a millennium, and its exact usage given careful attention in the booklet-notes, this very simple music can easily become a visual experience, rather than a purely aural one. The group’s previous projects have involved the recreation of specific acoustics (in particular those of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul) – effects that are deeply moving and evocative – and that, combined with the graphic nature of this music, leaves this disc feeling oddly incomplete when recorded in the more sterile surroundings of Stanford Memorial Church. Despite that, though, it is hard not feel that the work this group is doing is not only presenting music that has a veneer of inaccessibility in a way that releases its particular beauty but also allowing it to bloom and continue to evolve.


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