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Press Comments on the Music of Ivan Moody

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"In Passion and Resurrection Moody creates…a surprising power and beauty. Moody's work kept returning to the mystery of the divine made flesh. It was fitting that we'd been able to marvel at his treatment of that message."

Willamette Week, USA


"[Lamentation of the Virgin] Schon allein der Variantreichtum in der Vertonung des Klagelauts "awe" faszinierte. Wie Balsam wirkt das zarte "Erbarme dich unser" nach der schrillen Klage."

Nürnberger Zeitung, Germany


"Mariposa del aireis beguilingly simple and intensely wrought from musical images which themselves seem like a perfect translation of words into another, even better language."

Choir & Organ, UK


"The sound of the pieces…is immediately familiar and yet still quite personal. The second song, Endechas a la muerte de Guillén Peraza, is a keening, utterly memorable lament that has the sound of an ancient, cross-cultural, art-folk music hybrid."

Fanfare, USA


"Ivan Moody’s four Endechas y Canciones…sound to me to have carried Gesualdo a few twisty miles further along the mannerist road. Very sexy stuff indeed! […] The collection concludes with Ivan Moody’s touching and beautiful Canticum Canticorum."

Fanfare, USA


"And Moody’s resonant ‘Canticum Canticorum I’, with which the album concludes, is just simply beautiful."

Glenn McDonald, The War against Silence, http://www.furia.com/twas/twas0105.html


"Moody set the entire Akathistos Hymn, a feat that has not been attempted since the middle ages. ..listening to the slowly unfolding work became a new and deeply satisfying experience. [His] handling of gentle dissonances for key words showed imagination. […] The effect was hair-raising. […] Something new, substantial and profound."

Sunday Oregonian, USA


"The Meeting in the Garden […] mostrou como é possível escrever bela música religiosa nos dias de hoje. O compositor […] regressa às mais arcaicas raízes da música de igreja com uma pureza e uma sensação de novidade desconcertantes. A narrativa do encontro de Jesus ressuscitado com a Virgem Maria é dada com uma limpidez e uam eficácia que nos faz sentir como os fiéis de tempos remotos, ouvindo uma história com o espanto de crianças."

Público, Portugal


"The music of Ivan Moody's Passion and Resurrection is given such a compelling performance on this recording that there are times when it touches sublimity. […] The entire drama of the Passion is here given a freshened meaning, at least to Western Europeans, because the certainty of the Resurrection imparts something warm, even ecstatic, to grief. […] The effect, I may say, is very powerful indeed. […] The choruses are ineffably beautiful even when there is an edge of reproach or a dazzle of death-defying gratitude about them. It is hard to explain how music which is not understated but never shoutingly draws attention to itself or waves rowdy rhetorical flags nevertheless conveys, over the span of an hour of more, an overwhelming sense of completion, of things felt and understood with a rare, strange wholeness."

Choir and Organ, UK


"…a major addition to the literature. […] Moody's setting [of the Akathistos Hymn] combines traditional Byzantine melodic lines - in monophonic chant over a drone- with polyphony that grows more complex as the work progresses, culminating in occasional stunning 10- and 12- part passages. The harmonies are lush and dark in Russian style, though periodically the shadows disperse as in a cloudbreak and the sound brightens. The effect over the whole hymn is of a slow revelation of light and warmth over an ancient musical ground."

Willamette Week, USA


"Ivan Moody's Words of the Angel - beautifully conceived, and in this poised, pure performance, truly ethereal."

Classic FM Magazine, November 2001, UK


"Ivan Moody's Words of the Angel, written specially for Trio Mediaeval, and making superb use of their voices, adds a nice touch of something slightly different before the end. "

"A cult disc in the making?"

Gramophone, January 2002, UK


"...the disc is spellbinding. [...] It is a tribute to Moody's piece, a Resurrection motet with vivid effects of dazzling light, that it can follow these without anticlimax.  An exceptional coupling, finely and atmospherically recorded."

International Record Review, February 2002, UK


"...e un lavoro del contemporaneo Ivan Moody (classe 1964), Parole degli Angeli.  Anche in questo caso, l'accostamento tra antico e moderno non provoca fratture, ma sottende piuttosto l'idea di non considerare il passato solo come expressione museale, bensì come stimolo per la creatività contemporanea."  

24 Ore  Domenica, 30th September, 2001, Italy


"Highlights for me included (...) Moody's contribution, which sits at exactly the right place in the spiritual journey of the CD."

Early Music News, November 2001


"Moody’s expert vocal writing soars frequently and thrillingly into the singers’ highest registers."

Iclassics.com review of Words of the Angel, available online at: http://www.iclassics.com/iclassics/feature.jsp?featureId=479


"The 14th century ‘Tournai’ Mass, consisting of a Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Ite missa est, is the first known complete polyphonic mass to come down to us. Its sections were probably written by different composers, and it's a stunning, fascinating look into early polyphony. This performance is combined with other pieces from the same period, as well as a five-minute piece by contemporary composer Ivan Moody, which--though clearly from six centuries later--blends to make this a gorgeous whole. If you like Anonymous 4, you're in for a real treat here. The three Scandinavian women who make up Trio Mediaeval have astonishingly beautiful voices, with individual timbres that nonetheless mingle seamlessly, whether in simple, chantlike moments or in the high-flying Moody piece. And they sing with feeling, depth, and, well, soul. This is a magnificent disc, not to be missed." --Robert Levine

Editorial Reviews at Amazon.com (www.amazon.com)


"…Words of the Angel by Ivan Moody.  It’s a haunting and intensely expressive piece that fits this program surprisingly well, its sharp harmonies and otherworldly aura nicely paralleling the mood and texture of the ancient music."

Editorial reviews at Barnes and Noble.com (http://music.barnesandnoble.com)


"Words is a tour de force of sinuous chant and unadorned contrapuntal statements, alternating with a broad and occasionally dissonant brush of soaring and cascading polyphonies."

Online Review by Lou Wigdor (Lou’s Reviews: http://www.filbert.com/pvfs/LousReviews/0302.htm)


The sheer vocal dynamics of the title track – composed especially for Trio Mediaeval by Ivan Moody – would make Leonardo da Vinci’s jaw drop."

David Lynch, Austin Chronicle




At the other end of the program, the Moody title piece "Words of the Angel" (1998) seems to have been included to remind us that all the music here might best be perceived as modern objects, not to be mistaken for historical recreation. This orthodox prayer, which was composed specifically for them, has no other kin remotely like it in the set and yet this lone performance unambiguously places Trio Mediaeval on their own ground, safely outside any problem of authenticity. It is far and away the most potent moment on the recording with its (recent) close harmonies and dramatic spire-like punctuations.”

Steve Taylor, hollowear.com http://www.hollowear.com/reviews/ecm-medeival.html


The Word’s the thing: Ivan Moody’s Passion and Resurrection

In his 1992 oratorio, Passion and Resurrection, performed Friday night in St. Mary’s Cathedral by the Portland-based choral ensemble Cappella Romana, British composer Ivan Moody (who conducted) carries on a fitting heritage: some of the earliest settings of the passion of Christ emerged from fifteenth century England.

But Moody’s tonal world, like that of his teacher, composer Sir John Tavener, is much closer to that of the Greek and Slavic churches, especially that of Russian Orthodoxy, where the unaccompanied choral tradition is strongest and collective faith in Christian mysteries at its most potent. In fact, Moody’s
Passion does more than just echo the music of the Orthodox church, it paints images with all the compressed message and gesture of Russian icons. Appropriately, and brilliantly, Moody’s oratorio is divided into eight such icons, from Incarnation (Ikon I) to The Resurrection (Ikon VIII). And as with the most spiritually and artistically effective religious art, the starkest image can speak the richest of meanings. Therein lies the foundation of this oratorio’s moving beauty and power: Moody’s adroit shaping of the material, and Cappella Romana¹s sensitive interpretation of it.

"In the beginning was the Word," chants Moody’s Evangelist, sung with tender intensity by tenor Scott Tuomi, and the Word - be it in English, Greek or Slavonic - is what makes this work run. In strictly modal plainchant recitatives, Tuomi told the familiar story - Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection--interspersed with harmonically jeweled choral responses from the ensemble, setting a mesmeric mood that left the curious impression of having watched a play rather than listened to music. This is where Moody’s faith supersedes his art. Like the
oklad or silver plaque placed over an icon’s image, Moody’s submission to orthodoxy frames and disciplines the gorgeously colored scenes within. Even his orchestral resources are kept in check. To the traditional string quartet grouping of violins, viola and cello were added contrabass and chimes, providing subdued accompaniment; the brief yet delicately descriptive orchestral interludes were like prayer made visible as well as audible. Even Christ seemed subsumed in the Word: the wonderful bass John Vergin sang with quiet, submissive nobility. Soprano LeaAnne DenBeste, in her chaste solos as the Mother of God, meshed perfectly with Moody’s iconic vision of world-altering action frozen at the moment of highest dramatic import. Amid all these rocky peaks and solemn valleys, there was one blooming garden. Tuomi’s aria, "Give me this Stranger, Who has no place to lay His head," accompanied by the choir and soprano soloist, came off not so much as an appeal to selfless compassion than as a kind of cosmic canzona d’amore.

Grant Menzies, Critic of the Willamette Week, USA, October 2002


Moving 'Passion' lovingly voiced

Cappella Romana's transporting delivery drew on the spare Byzantine style.

Purer, sweeter, more austere and impersonal than Baroque composer Heinrich Schutz, who makes Bach sound like an overwrought Romantic, is the music of the Byzantine liturgy. Ivan Moody drew on that glorious tradition for his deeply moving "Passion and Resurrection," heard Friday at St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine.

Sung gorgeously by the Portland, Oregon-based Cappella Romana, led by Moody, the performance set a high-water mark at the start of the fourth Eclectic Orange Festival sponsored by the Philharmonic Society. The concert was presented by the church.

This is a vocal tradition uncommon in the Western concert hall and takes some getting used to. A narrator chants the story of Christ's Passion and resurrection, staying within a very narrow dynamic, expressive and melodic range. The choir sings hymns and antiphons, mostly a cappella, often in unison. When it breaks into harmony, the effect is like jeweled light flooding the space.

Moody added a small string ensemble to provide occasional, discreet accompaniment. A string bass, however, sounded pedal notes throughout the work, except at the moment of Christ's death. Its absence then was shocking.

Absence is the critical characteristic of this style: absence of display, ego, of anything that draws attention from the involving narrative. Following the practice of the Greek Orthodox Church, however, the composer sets off sections of the work, which he calls "Ikons," with chimed notes. That and the symbolic three-fold repetitions of certain lines remind us that this is not meant as entertainment.

Indeed, "Passion and Resurrection" is very close to being a church service, and that may have accounted for the respectful rather than overwhelming applause at the end. You don't applaud a Mass at which you have been transported.

The 16 singers were exemplary in breath and dynamic control, creating timeless, endless melody by starting every new line at exactly the same dynamic and color as the one they had just finished. Tenor Leslie Green was the gentle, marathon Evangelist. Bass John Vergin was the warm, authoritative Christ. LeaAnne DenBeste sang the Mother of God with aching purity.

Moody's a cappella
In You, All Creation Rejoices, also in Byzantine style, was the encore.

Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times, 14 October 2002


[Ivan Moody’s] three Canticum Canticorum motets are masterly in using the modern to evoke the past. Chords are prismatically sung and the sound quality and engineering are pristine.

Vancouver Sun, Saturday, 12th October, 2002

(review of "INVOCATION" by musica intima, on Atma 2284 ***** [5 stars]))


"It’s truly beautiful work, and a rare understanding of the choral instrument. Some of your music reminds me of the Rachmaninov Vespers."

Cary Boyce, composer, University of Indiana


 Meditative Zeitensprünge

 Winterthurer Vokalensemble und Frauen-Choralschola St. Gallen gestalteten geistliche Musik vom Feinsten

In der Kathedrale führten musikalische Zeitreisen zu musikalischer Zeitlosigkeit. Und zeigten die ungebrochene Kraft ferner geistlicher Musik als Anregerin für moderne Auseinandersetzung.

Es mochte symbolisch wirken, dass der englische Komponist Ivan Moody sich als Sänger einreihte ins Winterthurer Vokalensemble, nur heraustretend, um sein diesem Chor gewidmetes Werk «Isconsolada» zu dirigieren. Moody, dessen musikalische Wurzeln stark von der Orthodoxie geprägt sind, reiht sich auch mit dieser Uraufführung respektvoll in die grosse und nach wie vor unerschöpfliche Tradition geistlicher Musik ein.

«Isconsolada» (sardisch: die Untröstliche) ist Musik, die stehend wirkt, die unaufdringlich, aber einprägsam Jahrhunderte zusammenfasst und auf bewusst engem Raum grosse Emotionsbreite «zusammenpacken» will. Die Sekundreibungen zu Beginn sind aus der Feder eines Zeitgenossen, erinnern aber gleichzeitig an «atonale» Stimmexperimente der Renaissance.

Die Tradition geachtet

Ausbrüche gibt es wenige, dann aber - subtil gesetzt - von spannender Wirkung. Die griechischen und sardischen Texte fassen konzis und prägnant Erbe zusammen: östliches und westliches. «Isconsolada» macht Appetit auf einen Tonsetzer, der einer überreichen Tradition mit Achtung etwas abgewinnen kann, um ihr dann wiederum etwas gegenüberzustellen.  [...]

Martin Preisser, Tagblatt St Gallen, September 2003


Akáthistos Hymn

The Byzantine Akáthistos Hymn probably dates from the early 6th century and comprises 24 stanzas, one for each letter of the Greek alphabet. Moody's is believed to be the first complete setting of the hymn, a meditation on the Virgin Mary, since medieval times.

 Moody has combined authentic Byzantine melodies with some he has composed himself, suited to this English translation of the hymn.  His use of voicings, influenced by Russian Orthodox choral traditions, gives a 'chestier' quality to the music than we normally expect from contemporary 'Holy Minimalists' such as Tavener, with whom Moody studied, or even from plainsong. The ancient Byzantine modes (codified in the 8th century but extant for several centuries before), the intervals, the occurrence at crucial points of expressively flattened pitches, the graceful arc of the phrases and the use of pedal tones or drone effects: all strongly evoke Indian music - though their real roots probably lie in Persian tradition.

 Somewhat ironically, the strictures of the Church authorities against making music too attractive, and thus taking the worshippers' thoughts away from the devotional purpose of the liturgy, produced music of such purity and radiance that, to modern sensibilities at least, the beauty of the sound is a sensuous pleasure which is its own justification, regardless of the intention of the text. Moody's realization is sinfully lovely. Cappella Romana specializes in the Slavic and Byzantine traditions, so the excellence of this performance is no surprise: the soloist is the aptly named bass-baritone John Vergin.

 As if 96 gorgeous minutes of the Akáthistos Hymn were not value for money, the album is rounded off with a shimmering performance of O Tebe Raduetsya, Moody's 1990 setting of another hymn to the Virgin, this time from the Russian Orthodox tradition. 

 Barry Witherden

 Gramophone, Awards Issue, 14th Oct 2003


...”Words of the Angel”.  In Ivan Moody’s setting of passages from the Orthodox Easter Liturgy, haunting, spiky dissonances suggest a joy born of unspeakable sorrow.

Marion Lignana Rosenberg

Newsday.com, 11 February, 2004 ( http://www.newsday.com)


When we arrive at Ivan Moody’s A Lion’s Sleep, however, we appreciate certain clues to its 21st century origin while remaining solidly in a medieval harmonic and textually expressive idiom.  It’s an ingenious and memorable piece that we’re sure to hear in the Trio’s upcoming concert programs.

David Vernier

ClassicToday.com, February 2004 (http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=7342)


Akáthistos Hymn

That the Orthodox church in Britain has a contemporary musical voice is largely the result of John Tavener’s commitment to his adopted faith. Having moved away in recent years from liturgical music to grander works for the concert-hall, his baton has been firmly picked up by his one-time pupil, my reviewing colleague Ivan Moody. The extensive list of works on his website shows a particular focus on choral music for the Orthodox Church, of which he is also a member, and performances and recordings world-wide in the last two decades show wide interest in his music. The Akáthistos Hymn was written for Cappella Romana in 1998 and recorded in 2002 after a very successful American tour.

The name Akáthistos (“not sittingˆ) refers to a performance of the hymn in the sixth century in thanks for Mary’s divine intervention for the raising of the siege of Constantinople, and given standing; the 24 sections (one for each letter of the Greek alphabet) comprise a hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary. There is a great deal of text to set - no one has done this complete since the Middle Ages - and even with Moody´s efficient word-setting, the work lasts around 100 minutes. This is in fact his largest work to date, longer even than Passion & Resurrection (recorded by Cappella Amsterdam on Hyperion in 1996).

As the composer pointed out in a recent interview, the text is so full of imagery that the challenge was almost one of restraint, to conceive the whole span of the work as a whole; the interplay of Byzantine chant, Russian Medieval music and Moody’s own characteristic voice provides the necessary variety. As the text is less obviously narrative than that of Passion & Resurrection, the dramatic impulse here is subservient to the liturgical, with the majority of the 24 Ikos including an individual hymn of praise, each line beginning, “Hail”. And there are no instruments or soloists this time, except a single baritone.

Moody draws a wide variety of moods from often-simple harmony, aided by a careful interplay of major and minor modes, where a single accidental can change the whole character of a line. The stylistic integrity of the musical narrative allows sudden moments of illumination, like “Hail, for thou dost illumine multitudes with thy knowledge” in Ikos 9, to register with real force; and the appearance of a single E major chord seems revelatory after an hour of tonal areas based around C and D. Along the way there are moments of great richness (Ikos 11), and serenity (Kontakion 7). Throughout, Moody has succeeded in creating an organically developing whole, aided both by a sense of continuous harmonic evolution and increasing rhythmic complexity; all is brought to a climax with writing for ten-part double choir in Ikos 23. What seems like a calm ending then dissolves into an ecstatically lush setting of “O mother worthy of all praise”, before the final Kontakion reprise. Two moments did seem to lie outside the normal parameters in Kontakion 4, where a hint of the Anglican cathedral tradition emerges - plus a chant theme coincidentally similar to John Barry’s Bond theme music for You Only Live Twice!

Portland-based choir Cappella Romana was founded in 1991 by the conductor and musicologist Alexander Lingas to explore the centuries of Orthodox sacred music. They tackle The Akáthistos Hymn with confidence and commitment, undaunted by the composer’s unending melodies and the four-octave range of the work. That there are minor flaws is principally a result of the ensemble’s small size (21 voices), for maintaining the architecturally long lines requires either iron lungs or more voices. The sound itself is certainly full, but stronger low basses would have been useful; a slight tendency to flatness, and occasional American vowels (as in the word “thoughts” in Ikos 1) among the English can grate, especially from baritone soloist John Vergin. While this is a fine first reading, I suspect there is even more than Lingas and his team find in the score - a greater sense of dynamic range and drama, and a less metrical pulse. That the performance rarely seems spiritually ecstatic owes something to the recorded sound, which is clear rather than atmospheric - you can’t smell the incense! Nevertheless, this comes strongly recommended.    

Francis Knights

International Record Review, March 2004


Particularly outstanding are Ivan Moody’s Troparion of Kassiani and A Lion’s Sleep which, in powerfully expressive music combining great simplicity with piercingly appropriate responses to certain crucial words in each text, convey the inconsolable anguish of St Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Virgin as they contemplate the body of the crucified Christ.”

Elizabeth Roche

Telegraph, Saturday 1 May, 2004


Les voix pures et vibrantes du Trio Mediaeval explorent les sources de la musique chrétienne et appellent leurs profondes résonances chez les compositeurs de notre époque. Leur précédent enregistrement chez ECM (Words of the Angel, ECM 1753) insérait une pièce d'Ivan Moody écrite en 1998 au coeur d'une oeuvre médiévale. Cette fois, c'est la messe Alma Redemptoris Mater de Leonel Power (c.1370 - 1445) qui éveille l'inspiration des compositeurs contemporains sollicités pour composer des pièces autour de la thématique mariale, usant de la belle simplicité du plain-chant comme des couleurs de la polyphonie plus tardive. Ainsi, nous survolons les nuages au-dessus de l'Ukraine d'Oleh Harkavyy ou de l'Angleterre d'Andrew Smith tout imprégnées des racines de la musique médiévale, succombant à l'éclat des compositions de Gavin Bryars qui subliment la lumière vocale du soprano solo.  La complicité qui lie le Trio Mediaeval à Ivan Moody depuis plusieurs années se devine dans la riche délicatesse d'A Lion's Sleep où la voix soliste s'élève telle une épure pour rejoindre la tenue des deux autres dans un même élan, étincelant de ferveur, se retire et revient plus intense encore, plus vivante et lumineuse. Ce très bel album,  offrande d'une bienfaisante fraîcheur, invite à la plus douce des méditations.

Isabelle Françaix, Bruxelles, le 30 avril 2004, Ramifications http://www.ramifications.be/Nouveautes/sacre.htm


 Soir, dit-elle is only the second release from Trio Mediaeval, but these three Scandinavian women are already widely regarded as A4’s logical successors. Individually, they probably have even more distinctive and flexible voices—soprano Anna Maria Friman can really nail a high note when required—but TM’s most salient strengths are those of the American group: a flawless vocal blend, a profound musical intelligence, and a deep spiritual connection to the texts. Soir, dit-elle intersperses the four sections of a fifteenth-century mass (“Alma redemptoris mater”) by the English composer Leonel Power with new works written for Trio Mediaeval by Oleh Haravyy, Gavin Bryars, Andrew Smith, and Ivan Moody. The effect of the program is spellbinding, as the Trio moves effortlessly back and forth across the span of 600 years without ever breaking the musical mood. All of the new music is exemplary, but the two pieces by Moody, The Troparion of Kassiani and A Lion’s Sleep, which set ninth- and tenth-century texts that give voice to the two Maries associated with Christ (His mother and Mary Magdalene), are especially wonderful.

Andrew Quint, AVguide.com



The most telling journey is in the nine minutes of Ivan Moody's A Lion's Sleep. This is Mary's Lament, as told by St Simeon Metaphrastes and translated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The British composer is unerring in his response to images of great poetic power.

William Dart, The New Zealand Herald, 16 June 2004





Aufregend, überraschend und zeitweilig richtig virtuos Ivan Moodys The Troparion of Kassiani. Eine Steigerung all dessen ist sein sehr fantasievolles A Lion's Sleep.





Lamentation of the Virgin (Singer Pur CD Oehms Classics OC354)

Ivan Moodys wunderbare "Klage der Jungfrau Maria, die unter dem Kreuz den Tod und das Leiden ihres Sohnes beweint", ist die 1995 entstandene Vertonung eines tatsächlich ergreifenden Textes aus den Carmina Burana, jener berühmten Benediktbeurer Handschrift. Moody, 1964 geboren und Schüler John Taveners, schrieb dazu eine Musik, die von fast mittelalterlich anmutenden weiten Bögen und großen Linien geprägt ist, auch an die große Mehrstimmigkeit der Renaissance fühlt man sich immer wieder erinnert. Trotzdem findet Moody zu einem eigenständigen, individuellen und letztlich faszinierenden Ton.

Oswald Beaujean, Bayern 4 Klassik (Klassikportal des Bayerischen Rundfunks), October 2004




London-born Ivan Moody contributes a ravishing, mediaeval-tinged Sanctus, as ethereally lovely – and at points as stunningly wild – as his compositions for Trio Mediaeval”

Robert Levine, review of And On Earth, Peace: A Chanticleer Mass, http://www.amazon.com



Kleine Musik

Moody Anima mea liquefacta est. Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten. Die Furcht des Herren a 2. Habe deine Lust an dem Herren. Herr, ich hoffe darauf. Ihr heiligen, lobsinget dem Herren. Meister, wir haben die ganze Nacht gearbeitet. O misericordissime Jesu. Verbum caro factum est a 2.

Schütz Anima mea liquefacta est, SWV263. Adjuro vos, filiae Hierusalem, SWV264. Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten, SWV282. Ihr heiligen, lobsinget dem Herren, SWV288. O misericordissime Jesu, SWV309. Habe deine Lust an dem Herren, SWV311. Herr, ich hoffe darauf, SWV312. Verbum caro factum est, SWV314. Meister, wir haben die ganze Nacht gearbeitet, SWV317. Die Furcht des Herren, SWV318.

Sete Lágrimas (Ana Quintans, soprano; Filipe Faria, tenor; Inês Moz Caldas, flute/recorder; Pedro Castro, flute/oboe; Kenneth Frazer, viola da gamba; Duncan Fox, violone; Hugo Sanches, theorbo)/Sérgio Peixoto (tenor/harpsichord).

MU Records MU0102 (full price, 1 hour 2 minutes). German and Latin texts included. Website www. murecords.com. Producers Filipe Faria, Sérgio Peixoto, Ivan Moody. Engineer João Diogo Pratas. Dates October and December 2007.

Kleine Musik is a record of responses: by two composers to the same texts; by one composer to the music of another; by composer to performer; by performer to composer, music and text. The multiple intersections blaze up into a delicately powerful coalescence.

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) was the most important German composer of the seventeenth century, his studies in Venice, first with Giovanni Gabrieli and later with Monteverdi, resulting in a sureness and originality of style that would be equalled only in the later Baroque. Of the 13 printed collections of Schütz's music published during his lifetime, four are devoted to smaller-scale sacred chamber music: the Kleine geistliche Konzerte and the first two volumes of the Symphoniae sacrae. The majority of the works by Schütz on this disc are drawn from the former, with only Anima mea liquefacta est and Adjuro vos, filiae Hierusalem coming from the latter.

In 2007 the present performers, Portuguese early and contemporary music ensemble Sete Lágrimas, commissioned the British composer (and regular IRR contributor) Ivan Moody (b.1964) to set the same texts as Schütz. As Moody says in a brief booklet note, “I invariably looked in detail at Schütz's settings. The musical ambience is frequently very different, but I feel nevertheless very strongly that there is a firm link between the 17th century Lutheran German and this 21st century Greek Orthodox Englishman.”

The instrumentation is similar throughout: either a solo soprano or two tenors with continuo (violone and theorbo) and various obbligato parts for recorders, oboe or gamba. Only in Verbum caro factum est and Die Furcht des Herren does Moody provide a purely instrumental setting (for harpsichord). Significantly, the corresponding texts (John 1:14 and Psalm 111:10) are two of only four on the disc that aren¹t concerned with some kind of deliverance, the preponderance of which theme in Schütz's settings is understandable given he was writing these works during the Thirty Years' War.

Schütz¹s settings are thoroughly Italianate: florid, declamatory and highly expressive; Moody's owe much more to the melismatic style of Orthodox chant and to the spare angularity of Medieval polyphony, seasoned by dissonance and a smooth contemporary idiom that is both haunting and sensual. The works which begin and end the disc represent the two stylistic extremes: the urgent soprano recitative of Schütz's Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten (Psalm 70) and Moody's highly melismatic, dissonant Habe deine Lust an dem Herren (Psalm 37) for two unaccompanied tenors. In between, much terrain is covered, from Moody's mysterious-sounding setting of Luke 5:5, Meister, wir haben die ganze Nacht gearbeitet for two tenors, oboe, recorder and continuo, and his frankly beautiful Augustine setting O misericordissime Jesu for soprano and continuo to Schütz's own ultimately joyful setting of Habe deine Lust an dem Herren for two tenors and continuo and the optimistic Ihr heiligen, lobsinget dem Herren (Psalm 30) with its dancing recorders.

Tenors Filipe Faria and Sérgio Peixoto (who together comprise Sete Lágrimas proper) sing with lightness, clarity and a great deal of expressive power, given the modest scale of these compositions. Ana Quintans's pellucid soprano is likewise ideal for this repertoire. The instrumental ensemble nicely amplifies the meaning of the texts through subtle and imaginative phrasing and articulation (especially so in the case of violone player Duncan Fox). Well recorded and tastefully packaged, “Kleine Musik” blurs the boundaries between old and new in a way that's reminiscent of the best of religion and art.

Robert Levett, in International Record Review, February 2009



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Last revised 10.03.2009




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