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Alexander Lingas directs Cappella Romana in The Greek East and Venice
A celebration of medieval Byzantine chant and related Latin works influenced by Byzantine Tradition in Crete and the Ionian Islands, which were ruled by Venetians after the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1205, and in Cyprus, a Venetian outpost from 1489 to 1571. Commissioned by the Utrecht Early Music Festival (Netherlands), the largest early music festival in the world, where Cappella Romana gave the debut of this program in 2016.
This concert is generously supported by Dorothy Jantzen
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From the Byzantine and Venetian Commemorations of the Paschal Triduum
The Crucifixion and Deposition
Venite et ploremus Johannes de Quadris
soloists: Aaron Cain, Mark Powell Liber sacerdotalis (1523) of Alberto Castellani
Popule meus Liber sacerdotalis
soloist: Kerry McCarthy
Sticherón for the Holy Passion: Ἤδη βάπτεται (“Already the pen”)
2-voice setting (melos and “ison”) Manuel Gazēs the Lampadarios (15th c.)
soloists: Spyridon Antonopoulos, MS Duke, K. W. Clark 45
John Michael Boyer
Traditional Melody of the Sticherarion Mode Plagal 4
Cum autem venissent ad locum de Quadris
soloists: Aaron Cain, Mark Powell Liber sacerdotalis
O dulcissime de Quadris
soloists: Photini Downie Robinson, Kerry McCarthy Liber sacerdotalis
Verses of Lamentation for the Holy Passion “Corrected by” Angelos Gregoriou
MS Duke 45, Mode Plagal 2
Sepulto Domino de Quadris
soloists: Spyridon Antonopoulos, Aaron Cain, Mark Powell Liber sacerdotalis
Attollite portas (“Lift up your gates”) Liber sacerdotalis
celebrant: Mark Powell
Ἄρατε πύλας (“Lift up your gates”) Anon. Cypriot (late 15th c.?), MS Sinai Gr. 1313
Attollite portas … Quem queritis … Liber sacerdotalis
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη (“Christ has risen”) Cretan Melody as transcribed by
Ioannis Plousiadenós (ca. 1429–1500), MS Dionysiou 570
Venetian Paschal Greeting: Surrexit Christus! Liber sacerdotalis
celebrant: Mark Powell
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη Cantus grecus Christus surrexit, MS Faenza 117
New Greek Chants of the Eucharist
Gloria in excelsis, sung in Greek Gazēs and Plousiadenós
The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, sung in Greek The “New” Cantors of Crete
MS Sinai 1552, Mode Plagal 4
Communion Verse for Easter: Σῶμα Χριστοῦ μεταλάβετε Ioannis Laskaris (15th c.)
(“Receive the Body of Christ”) Mode Plagal 2 “Nenano”
Communion Verse: Ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμέ An Old [Cretan] Melody Embellished by
(“One who has seen me”), John 14:9 Hieronymos Tragodistēs of Cyprus (16th c.)
MS Sinai Gr. 1313, Mode Plagal 4
Byzantine Hymns to the Mother of God
A Tropárion from the 9th Ode of the Paschal Canon Hieronymos Tragodistēs
by St. John of Damascus: Ὢ Πάσχα τὸ μέγα (“O Great Pascha”)
Káthisma “as sung on the Holy Mountain” Angelos Gregoriou
MS Dionysiou 570, Mode Plagal 4
Kalophonic Theotokíon for Cardinal Bessarion Plousiadenós
soloists: Spyridon Antonopoulos, John Michael Boyer
From its emergence as a significant political entity in the sixth century under the rule of the Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) Empire to the dissolution of the Republic by Napoleon in 1797, the city of Venice remained closely tied to the Greek East. Following the diversion of the Fourth Crusade to sack Constantinople in the year 1204, Venice not only seized for itself priceless treasures that to this day adorn their Byzantine-style church of San Marco, but also began to acquire its own empire of colonies in the Eastern Mediterranean. The size of this empire waxed and waned according to the fortunes of Venice and its political and economic competitors, which included at various times such other western powers as the Genoese and the French, as well the Byzantines and, especially from the fourteenth century onwards, the Ottoman Turks.
For centuries the most prominent and prosperous Greek-speaking colony of Venice was Crete, which it acquired in 1204. During the two centuries prior to its conquest by the Ottomans in 1669, Crete developed a flourishing Greco-Italian Renaissance culture. Meanwhile, in 1489 control of Cyprus passed from the French Lusignan dynasty to the Venetian Republic, which held it until its capture by the Turks in 1571. After the fall of Crete, Venice’s only Greek colonies were the Ionian Islands. The arrival of Cretan refugees bolstered cultural life of the larger islands of Corfu, Zante, Lefkada, and Cephalonia, which to this day retain Italianate linguistic, cultural and musical traditions. Meanwhile, Venice itself came to host a flourishing Greek minority that had gained a measure of cultural and religious autonomy in the sixteenth century with the building of the church of San Giorgio dei Greci.
The split that had occurred between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the beginning of the second Christian millennium caused varying amounts of friction through the centuries between Venetian rulers and Greek subjects. Further confusion arose with the attempt to reunify the churches at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438–39), in the wake of which an Orthodox Divine Liturgy was celebrated in San Marco and Metropolitan Bessarion of Nicea, a prominent Byzantine churchman and intellectual whose books served as the original core of the Venetian Biblioteca Marciana, became a Cardinal of the Roman Church. Although the Orthodox chafed at strictures imposed upon them – in Crete, for example, they were allowed to retain their own lower clergy even as the consecration of local Orthodox bishops was forbidden –the general trend over time was toward greater religious toleration.
This program presents music from Venice and its Greek colonies that in various ways testifies to the sharing of religious traditions. It begins with excerpts from the Greek and Latin ceremonies of the Easter Triduum that display both parallel developments in liturgical piety and the sharing of musical and ritual elements. Both Venetians and Cretans marked the Passion and Deposition from the Cross of Christ with thematically similar rituals involving the use of simple forms of polyphony. Likewise, they possessed similar ceremonies for the opening of their churches on Easter Day and the Paschal greeting “Christ has risen!” (Surrexit Christus/!Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!). Both traditions are incorporated into the polyphonic setting of the Easter Troparion “Christ has risen” from the Codex Faenza 117, which follows the Cretan melody for this Greek hymn with the Latin response “Deo gratias”.
This concert continues with other music illustrating points of musical and ritual interchange between the Greek and Latin traditions under Venetian rule. The setting of the Latin recension of the hymn Gloria in excelsis to Byzantne chant is the work two Greek musicians: Manuel Gazes the Lampadarios and Ioannis Plousiadenos (ca. 1429–1500). Gazes evidently moved to Crete from Constantinople during the first half of the fifteenth century, where he taught the composer and scribe Angelos Gregoriou, who as a monk had also visited Mount Athos. Another Constantinopolitan composer who found refuge in Crete during the same period was Ioannis Laskaris, whose career on the island as a teacher and agitator for the rights of his native church is well documented in the archives of Venice.
Plousiadenos was a priest, music theorist, scribe, and composer who lived in Venice for significant portions of his life and died as a Roman Catholic bishop ministering to his religiously mixed Christian flock during a Turkish siege of the Venetian outpost of Methone in the Peloponnesus. During his years in Italy, Plousiadenos became a protégé of Cardinal Bessarion, who commissioned the hymn in fifteen-syllable verse to the Virgin Mary that concludes this program. This piece is known to survive only in Mt Athos Koutloumousiou 448, a manuscript copied in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century by the Cretan composer Benedict Episkopopoulos. Music of this later period is represented by a setting of the Greek Orthodox text of the Creed – that is, without the Latin addition of the phrase “filioque” —by the “New Teachers” of Crete recorded by Theodore Rhodakinos in MS Sinai Gr. 1552, and the music of Hieronymos Tragodistes of Cyprus, a scribe and student of the Venetian theorist Gioseffo Zarlino.
Texts and Translations
To view/download the texts and translations for this concert, click here.
Its performances “like jeweled light flooding the space” (Los Angeles Times), Cappella Romana is a vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to combining passion with scholarship in its exploration of the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, with emphasis on early and contemporary music. Founded in 1991 by music director Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s name refers to the medieval Greek concept of the Roman oikoumene (inhabited world), which embraced Rome and Western Europe, as well as the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople (“New Rome”) and its Slavic commonwealth.
Flexible in size and configuration according to the demands of the repertory, Cappella Romana is based in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, where it presents annual concert series in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. It regularly tours in Europe and North America, having appeared at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Trinity Wall Street and Music Before 1800 in New York, the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome, the Sacred Music Festival of Patmos, the University of Oxford, Princeton University, and Yale University.
Cappella Romana has released over twenty compact discs. Its latest recordings are Cyprus: Between Greek East and Latin West (released November 2015), the large-scale Slavonic choral work Passion Week by Maximilian Steinberg (1883–1946), a student and son-in-law of Rimsky-Korsakov and teacher of Shostakovich, and Good Friday in Jerusalem: Medieval Byzantine Chant, all of which have received multiple rave critical reviews and the latter two debuted in the top 10 Classical Recordings on Billboard.
Other releases include Tikey Zes: Divine Liturgy, Arctic Light: Finnish Orthodox Music, Mt. Sinai: Frontier of Byzantium, Epiphany: Medieval Byzantine Chant, and Byzantium 330–1453 (the official companion CD to the Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition), Byzantium in Rome: Medieval Byzantine Chant from Grottaferrata, The Fall of Constantinople, Richard Toensing: Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ, Peter Michaelides: The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,and The Divine Liturgy in English: The Complete Service in Byzantine Chant.
In 2010 it became a participant in the research project “Icons of Sound: Aesthetics and Acoustics of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul,” a collaboration between the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University, where the ensemble also performed in 2013 and returned in November 2016 with the program Icons of Sound, with the acoustics of Hagia Sophia imprinted upon the performance by Cappella Romana.
Its most recent tour was to the Iași Byzantine Music Festival in Iași, Romania (ibmf.ro), where its concert was broadcast on Romanian TV and seen by over 27,000 on live stream.
Alexander Lingas, music director
Alexander Lingas, music director and founder of Cappella Romana, is a Reader in Music at City University London and a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s European Humanities Research Centre. He received his Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from the University of British Columbia. His present work embraces not only historical study but also ethnography and performance. Formerly Assistant Professor of Music History at Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dr. Lingas has also served as a lecturer and advisor for the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at the University of Cambridge. His awards include Fulbright and Onassis grants for musical studies with the late cantor Lycourgos Angelopoulos, the British Academy’s Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship, research leave supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the St. Romanos the Melodist medallion of the National Forum for Greek Orthodox Church Musicians (USA). Having contributed articles to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies, Dr. Lingas is now completing two monographs: a study of Sunday Matins in the Rite of Hagia Sophia, and a historical introduction to Byzantine Chant for Yale University Press.