Maximilian Steinberg (1883-1946): Passion Week, Op. 13; Rimsky-Korsakov: Chants for Holy Week / Cappella Romana; Lingas


Of the two works on this recording, the major one, by virtue of the quality of the composition coupled simply with the revelation of its existence, is Passion Week by Lithuanian born Russian composer Maximilian Steinberg (major, too, because the piece takes up three-quarters of the total time of the album, a fact not in and of itself a 'virtue'). This world-premiere recording of Steinberg's sacred masterpiece is rounded out on the album by Rimsky-Korsakov's Chant Arrangements for Holy Week, which dovetails seamlessly at the conclusion of Passion Week, both works sounding to have been cut from the same cassock. The inspired performances are by Cappella Romana on the ensemble's own record label imprint of the same name.

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. You can listen to the opening two sections of Passion Week, provided as an album sample in the right sidebar of this Expedition Audio page.

The Oregon based vocal ensemble, 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.

More Listening: Steinberg - Symphony No. 1