Monday, January 04, 2010

Sistine Choir: Liberto Out

The new guy is Don Massimo Palombella.

Liberto was appointed by JPII (really, by Martino), and was notorious for his utter disrespect for the writings of a certain Cardinal Ratzinger.

The Liberto appointment was also controversial b/c he displaced Mgr. Bartolucci.

Whatever you may think of Bartolucci's philosophy of musica sacra, his choirs sang ugly. VERY ugly.

Let's hope that Palombella understands stuff like 'choral tone', and that forte is best offset now and again with piano; and that there are composers of excellent sacred music who are NOT Italian.

Here's a short clip of Mgr Palombella's college choir. Not bad at all!

That would be a start!

HT: Rorate Coeli


Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but the Sistine Choir is an embarrassment.

Dad29 said...

You understate the case...

Anonymous said...

I got a hearty laugh reading your (exceedingly accurate)description of the Capella Sistina's musicality.
Listening to the youtube clip of Palmobella conducting Bartolucci's Adeste Fidelis gave me little hope that we will be taking pride in our Vatican choir any time soon. God bless the Italian tenor's fach!

Dad29 said...

Like 'helden' fach, eh?

Perhaps the venue was not kind to Palombella's choir. It DID sound as though they were not always shouting.

Expat said...

I thought the You Tube clip did nothing to inspire hope for the future leadership of the Sistine Chapel Choir, especially the heavy handed and sloppy interpretation and the conducting of Don Palmobella which leaves a lot to be desired.

I agree with the comments of Dad29 and that the sound generally from Italian church choral singing is very spread and quite ugly. I see this every Sunday on Rai Uno for the 11am mass which mainly comes from Cathedrals all over Italy.

They need to emulate the quality of the Regensburger Domspatzen whose quality of singing is excellent. I don't really like German Latin being sung for Romance language composers but can cope with it for the compsers from Germany and Austria).

I have always wondered why the intonation is so bad at open air masses and having had the unique experience of being in Rome when HHJPII died I realised the problem. an A at the entrance to St Peter's is a G by the time it hits the Via Conciliazione aided by the poor loudspeaker system. Of course the good sister that conducted the "people's choir" didn't help with her flat and penetrating voice. The "choir" sounded like retired opera singers who had been out on the town the night before.

This fortunately has ended I see.

I went to the best classical CD shop in my city that has a huge selection and there was nothing to be found from the Sistine Chapel Choir neither today or from Bartolucci's era.

I wanted to do a compare and contrast with other leading choirs.

Thank you

Paddy McAree said...

With regard to the intonation problems, I have lived in Spain for the last 30 years, singing and playing and have decided the problem is the solfeo system used. The absolute pitches have the names do, re, mi etc. But the sharp and flat versions of each note have the same name so the sequence: C sharp, D sharp, D natural, B flat is sung do, re, re, si. And C natural, D natural
D natural, B natural is sung to the same names. To make mistakes and poorly judged interval distances is extremely easy.
The result is that semitones in particular and many intervals are not quite right. When the choir can't pitch C, F sharp, G, F natural you can't just tell them the solfa names Doh, Fe, Soh, Fah, as they have no clear concept of the accidentals, as they've learned do, fah in various versions: as C - F, C sharp-F. C - F sharp, C flat- F etc.
Choirs go ga-ga when they see 6 flats and consider transposition impossible. They cheat on the latter by simply giving a different beginning note (in which case the giving absolute names to the the absolute pitches is abandoned).
But a lot can be done with good listening habits. With this choir it is clear none of the lines listen to each other. They've probably never actually heard the chords balanced and in tune, so, they don't have anything to aim at, apart from a vaguely liturgical sound and the creeping back into tune with everybody else on the last chord ( or not, as the fancy takes).
To intonation there is no mystery, and each step can be studied and practised.
1: Have an image of what you're going to sing (a sound image)...a first note, a melodic line, a wide leap.
2: Sing what you think it is.
3: If it's wrong, correct it.
I would say that the problem in non-tonic-solfa cultures is precisely the first...the sound image is not clear before singing.