“Odes of Repentance”
Arvo Pärt: Triodion – Two Slavonic Psalms – From the Kanon of Repentance: Sedálon and Bogoródichon, Kanon Ode 6, Kontakion, Oikos, Ode 8, Ode 9, Prayer After – From the Gospel of St. Matthew: “The Woman with the Alabaster Box”
Kerry McCarthy (soloist), Cappella Romana, Alexander Lingas (music director)
Recorded at The Gus Kriara Lodge, Camp Angelos, Corbett, Oregon (February 28 to March 5, 2022) – 74’26
Cappella Records CR428 – Booklet in English with text in English and Church Slavonic
Under the direction of Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s “Odes of Repentance” is a selection of Arvo Pärt’s Orthodox works woven into a service of public and private prayers of supplication and renewal. While Pärt is widely identified with works having an Eastern spiritual flavor, his pedagogical background derives from Western classical music and the musical traditions of the Roman Catholic church. However, since his conversion to Orthodoxy some 50 years ago, the public has come to associate Pärt with music as inspired by Eastern Christianity.
“Odes” consists of 12 spellbinding tracks which give voice to the human yearning to be cleansed of past mistakes and to make positive changes in one’s future life. As the excellent booklet notes in Church Slavonic and English tell us, these prayers are less an expression of sorrow than they are an affirmation of rebirth. This renascence is expressed eloquently through Pärt’s music in an imaginative flow of melodies, modal harmonies, unexpected twists and turns, and the composer’s unique tintinnabuli technique.
What I found most absorbing in this recording was the variety of musical utterances, the splendid multiplicity of sounds, rhythms and tremors. Something new is lurking around the corner of every measure, sometimes as puzzling as our own contemplated destinies.
The album begins with an Ode from the Triodion and two Slavic Psalms (Psalm 131, “Lord, my heart is not haughty” King James Version [KJV] and the Doxology Psalm 116). The Ode is the first of three in this recording from the Triodion, a liturgical book used in the Eastern Church during Lent. Seven selections from the Kanon of Repentance shine at the heart of the album.
These tracks could not be more different. Slow staccato notes tiptoe under a silvery upper register in the third track while an almost Western sensibility shapes the sound of the fourth (did I hear a touch of Mahler?). The swinging rhythms and unexpected pauses of “Kanon Ode 9” remind us that “we aren’t in Kansas anymore”, but, rather, in a world that sometimes stretches far beyond the Western orientation of many listeners.
The album also includes a sung “reading” from the Gospel of Matthew, “The Woman with the Alabaster Box” (“There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.” KJV). Pärt’s music floats effortlessly from the ensemble and melts into the next selection, scattered with little discords.
This is Cappella Romana’s 31st album. While the group specializes in the sacred music of the Christian East and West, it is known largely for its stewardship of the music of Byzantium and the works of Arvo Pärt. Those of us raised in Western cultural traditions have missed much if we have ignored or been deprived of the legacy of Eastern sacred music, old or new. There is a core of authenticity in Pärt’s work that has endeared it, even in his lifetime, to millions around the world. In this album, the stars, the galaxies, all the wonders of a distant universe seem to touch us through the medium of sound. Whether or not one is knowledgeable about Eastern sacred music, this is an album of supreme artistry to cherish, heed, and enjoy.