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Passion Week by Maximilian Steinberg(1883–1946), is a newly rediscovered choral masterpiece based almost entirely upon early Russian chant melodies. Completed in 1923 in St. Petersburg, just a few weeks before the communist authorities banned all composition and performance of sacred music, the work lay in obscurity for 90 years, until it was revived and given its world premiere in April 2014 by Cappella Romana, under the direction of Alexander Lingas. Cappella Romana also recorded the work (our cat. No. A137).
Clearly, this work is a major masterpiece, destined to take its place amidst the great choral literature of the world, and it has already begun attracting the attention of major performing groups, such the Clarion Choir, under Steven Fox—one of New York City’s finest professional choral ensembles.
The Clarion Choir’s recording of Steinberg’s Passion Week offers a somewhat freer, more flamboyant reading of the work than Cappella Romana’s finely chiseled and finessed presentation. Both recordings satisfy and do justice to Steinberg’s complex and colorful score, which is remarkable in the way it expresses and interprets the meaning of the sacred texts of Orthodox Holy Week, using the austere melodies of znamenny and Kievan chants as their basic thematic material. The Clarion recording lets the listener actually hear five of those chants in their unadorned, unison form, interspersed among the eleven movements of Steinberg’s work. This provides both a respite from the dense sonorities of the polyphonic score, and also heightens one’s appreciation of the composer’s mastery and craftsmanship. Passion Week by Steinberg is an extraordinarily rich and content-filled work, which can be listened to over and over again, on many different recordings. The Clarion Choir CD and the one by Cappella Romana are only the beginning!—V.M.
|2||Maximilian Steinberg||Behold, the Bridegroom Comes||3:44|
|3||Kievan Chant||Thy Bridal Chamber||1:49|
|4||Maximilian Steinberg||Thy Bridal Chamber||St-PW03||2:50|
|5||Maximilian Steinberg||When the Glorious Disciples||4:59|
|6||Znamenny Chant||The Master's Hospitality||2:01|
|7||Maximilian Steinberg||The Master's Hospitality||3:11|
|8||Znamenny Chant||Of Thy Mystical Supper||2:45|
|9||Maximilian Steinberg||Of Thy Mystical Supper||4|
|10||Maximilian Steinberg||The Noble Joseph||4:42|
|11||Maximilian Steinberg||The Wise Thief||St-PW08||2:34|
|12||Znamenny Chant||Do Not Lament Me, O Mother||2:12|
|13||Maximilian Steinberg||Do Not Lament Me, O Mother||2:54|
|14||Znamenny Chant||Arise, O God||0:46|
|15||Maximilian Steinberg||Arise, O God||6:43|
|16||Maximilian Steinberg||Let All Mortal Flesh Keep||7:45|