via crucis

It’s Holy Week. This is my favorite time of the year to play classical music on the radio. On the personal level – the classical music written for this time of the year also makes for some of my very favorite listening.

There is nothing like the sublime sacred motets and cantatas, the Stabat Mater and Lamentation settings, the Passions and the Tenebrae lessons that make up the classical canon of Eastertime and Passover. This past week I played Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Passover Psalm, a rich and inspiringly optimistic work – especially considering that it was written in 1941. Later in the week I featured the contemplative Holy Wednesday Tenebrae Lesson by François Couperin, Gregorio Allegri’s overwhelmingly human appeal, the Miserere, and selections from the Neapolitan composer Giuseppe Giordani’s Passio per il Venerdi Santo (Passion for Good Friday).

I am also anxiously awaiting the arrival of Via Crucis (The Way of the Cross), the latest recording from Christina Pluhar and her ensemble, L’Arpeggiata. It’s been ordered but won’t be available until later in the month.

Last year L’Arpeggiata opened our ears to the wide realm of creative possibilities in the madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi with a singular vision that toes the already daring edges of today’s period music practices. Teatro d’Amore was a startlingly fresh take on works written around 400 years ago – complete with jazzy improvised cadenzas and syncopation, chromaticism and edgy harmonics that expand upon the deep tonal color pallette Monteverdi himself introduced in works like his revolutionary opera, L’Orfeo.

Via Crucis is a collection of 17th-century Italian sacred songs, assembled as a loose timeline of Christ’s life from the annunciation and nativity to the passion, crucifixtion, and resurrection. I’ve heard samplings from it and it will surely find its way to the air once I get the whole recording. Until then – enjoy a couple of Via Crucis previews (below), and – happy Easter!

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