“Cantate Domino: The Sistine Chapel and the music of Popes,” the first album to ever be recorded in the Sistine Chapel, was released last week.
The album, produced by Deutsche Grammophon, was presented today at the Vatican press office, by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Papal Household; Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir; Mark Wilkinson, president of Deutsche Grammophon; and Mirko Gratton, director of the classical music section of Universal Italia.
The album, released on 25 September, includes Renaissance music written for the Sistine Chapel Choir by Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria. There are also two pieces of Gregorian chant, alongside world premiere recordings of the original version of Allegri’s fabled Miserere (Sistine Codex of 1661) and a Nunc dimittis attributed to Palestrina which is still used during papal celebrations.
Cantate Domino offers listeners the chance to hear these pieces as the composers intended – in Latin and in the surroundings for which they were originally written. In order to capture the magic, mystery and beauty of the music in such unique surroundings, Deutsche Grammophon set up a specially constructed studio within the Chapel.
The mixing desk was set up in an ante-chamber, next to the “Sala del Pianto” (where the newly elected pontiff first dresses in the papal vestments).
The Sistine Chapel Choir is made up of 20 adult singers and 30 boy choristers. Among the singers is British baritone Mark Spyropoulos, who is the first British full-time member of the choir.
Part of the life of the ‘Pope’s home’
“The Pontifical Musical Choir, also known as the Sistine Chapel Choir, is among the oldest choral institutions in the world and has the unique characteristic of being the Pope’s choir,” explained Archbishop Ganswein.
This characteristic makes it part of the life of the “Pope’s Home” and places the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir within the structure of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, and gives it the specific task of being an entity whose service is entirely devoted to the Pontiff.
“The Prefecture is the point of reference for the Choir in terms of its artistic, administrative and disciplinary management. It is a composite and structured entity made up of 20 adult singers regularly employed by the Holy See, with the addition of 20 pueri cantores who attend the private elementary school annexed to the Choir. The release of a musical CD under the prestigious Deutsche Grammaphon label is an unprecedented event in the history of the Pontifical Musical Choir, and attests to the quality and professionalism that this Institution has achieved, thanks to its serious and diligent work under the guidance of Maestro Massimo Palombella”.
“The Sistine Chapel was consecrated in 1483, and since then it has been home, without interruption, of the Pontifical Musical Choir”, explained Msgr. Palombella. “In recent years, after intense and specific study of Renaissance religious music and its aesthetic importance, we have been able to undertake an interesting and significant recording. My hope is that these musical masterpieces will reach millions of people throughout the world, bringing them into contact with the historical culture and profound spirituality of the Catholic Church”.
On the Net:
1. Gregorian Chant – Rorate caeli desuper
2. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–1594) – Ad te levavi
3. Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594) – Magnificat VIII toni
4. Gregorian Chant – Lumen ad revelationem gentium
attrib. Palestrina – Nunc dimittis (World premiere recording)
5. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Super flumina Babylonis
6. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Improperium exspectavit cor meum
7. Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652) – Miserere Sistine Codex of 1661 (World premiere recording)
8. Gregorian Chant – Christus factus est pro nobis
9. Felice Anerio (c. 1560–1614) – Christus factus est pro nobis
10. Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611) – Popule meus (Improperia)
11. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Adoramus te, Christe
12. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Sicut cervus
13. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Angelus Domini
14. Orlande de Lassus – Iubilate Deo
15. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Constitues eos principes
16. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Tu es Petrus