That last time I endured listening to a recording of Capella Sixtina I was in a choral seminar in grad school, in my advisor’s office (only five students IIRC.) I squirmed and shrank as he gleefully put on a CD that, at the time, was the last aural evidence of the death spiral Roman Catholic choral music had chosen after the “Golden Era, pre-Monteverdi,” with Vatican II as a chaser.
Downloaded and listening to CANTATE DOMINO, Capella Sistina, released September 25, 2015. I neither squirm nor shrink, but at first blush, I haven’t deciphered exactly what I’m listening to. It is truly “other” in so many realms. I intend to revisit it in depth many times via many different audio platforms, as that seems a necessity. But for us Catholic/Choralist/Musicians who concern themselves with such doings as what marks a bell-weather moment in our cultural history, I can readily attest this may be one of those. I will do a thorough review in the near future.
*Maestro Monsignor Palombella is to be reckoned with. Sonically, environmentally (spatially), his vision is laudable for its self-evidence. I’ve never been to Rome, remedied hopefully this January, but now I’ve a familiarity, once removed, of the ambient of the Papal Chapel. This collection has been recorded and mastered with intent and purpose, which many choral projects don’t receive if they’re studio efforts.
*Aesthetically and pedagogically I feel I’m wandering through a Venetian Masqued Carnivale of tonal complexity. The only remnant of the screamers are a couple of tenore primo’s who occasionally show up with a tempered down throaty vibrato in a mixed head-voice concoction. When that happens on the heels of the fully blended, floating tenor chanters, I wonder how many choral colors Maestro has up his sleeve.
*Which leads to the boys, the blessed boys. By Lord, they are set free. Maybe I doth project too much but I can see their little swarthy Mediterranean faces, eyes forward instead of up thankfully, sounding….well….Italian and pure! No Kings College, but no squawking hatchlings of old either. Now and then some pitch issues, but perfection I don’t think is Maestro’s goal, integrity and honor are I’d guess.
*There remains an equally swarthy manliness in the bass/baritones, but without the “watch me flex” muscularity that was so distracting under previous regimes. This is most evident in the “Adoramus te Christe,” where both the deep cardinal tones are refined with a measured but certainly present vibrato.
This is a collection of note and ought to be listened to repeatedly and discussed not only in Catholic music circuses, but also in the larger choral world. Could this be yet another renaissance, but in our lifetime?