I have never been to Rome, actually that isn't true I went to an EMI conference there once but that doesn't count. We were due to go and spend a long weekend there in September 2001 but then 9/11 happened and as a result we didn't feel like going anywhere and so cancelled the trip. Silly decision as it was probably the safest time to fly. Anyway this week's recording has reminded me that a trip to Rome must go back on the agenda.
This is the first time that the Vatican has opened the doors of the iconic Sistine Chapel for a studio recording with the Sistine Chapel Choir - the world's oldest choir. The recording called 'Cantate Domino' is released on Deutsche Grammophon. The album was made by special permission of the Vatican and includes music specifically written for the Sistine Chapel Choir by amongst others Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria during the Renaissance period. Much of the music on the recording is still used during papal celebrations today. The works on Cantate Domino are sung in Latin and in the surroundings for which they were originally written.
Apparently Deutsche Grammophon constructed a special recording studio within the Sistine Chapel itself with the mixing desk in an ante-chamber next to the 'Sala del Pianto" (where the newly elected cardinal is first dressed as pope). They must have also had a very good sound engineer on board because the acoustics in the chapel will have made life quite difficult, however they clearly overcame the problems and managed to capture the magic and mystery that stems from the Vatican and the music written for it.
The Sistine Chapel is made up of 20 adult singers and 30 boy choristers which includes a British baritone Mark Spyropoulos, who is the first British full-time member of the choir. The chapel was consecrated in 1483 and has been home to the papal choir ever since and as such has served several successive popes since the early centuries of Christianity, but amazingly enough this is the first ever recording….apparently. His Holiness received the very first copy!
I think Cantate Domino is a very interesting recording. Firstly, you can clearly hear that it is sung in an extraordinary building because of the acoustics, it doesn't have that clean sound of the recording studio. Secondly, this very spiritual music is beautifully sung and as such I thoroughly recommend it.
Here is a clip for you to look at, just look at Michelangelo's frescoes they are so beautiful - Album trailer youTube.