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State of Wonder

Lost Russian Choral Work To Premier In Portland


The Portland-based choral ensemble Cappella Romana is about to premier a lost choral work that stands at the crossroads between ancient and modern sensibilities.

Cappella Romana‘s artistic director, Alexander Lingas, spoke to us from his office at City University London about the remarkable find that’s the centerpiece of the ensemble’s upcoming performance.

Alexander Lingas

Alexander Lingas

Cappella Romana

Maximilian Steinberg was a classmate of Igor Stravinsky. He was related by marriage to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. During the period when Steinberg composed the Passion Week Cycle, artists still enjoyed a relative degree of freedom, but his Romantic style stands in stark contrast to what some of his contemporaries were doing.

Steinberg produced a work that Lingas says rivals the greatest works of 20th century Russian choral music.

Passion Week looks back at ancient Russian Orthodox tradition with a contemporary eye. Lingas says Steinberg transferred very old forms “into a kind of choral idiom… that was modern in it’s thick textures, also switching back and forth to more austere textures. It’s an interesting, sophisticated style.”

The group will record the work this summer, but the premier is happening in Portland and Seattle this coming week.

Hungry for more? Dr. Lingas has this write-up of the story behind Steinberg’s Passion Week in the Orthodox Arts Journal.

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