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Fanfare Magazine: 13:5 (05-06 / 1990)  
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HMG 501315



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Reviewer: J. F. Weber
 

Sister Marie is a Lebanese nun who is pursuing a doctorate in musicology at the Sorbonne. She first appeared on the Ensemble Organum disc of Ambrosian chant, which undoubtedly led to this recording. I'm reminded first of Montserrat Figueras, then to some extent of Marie-Claire Bille-cocq, Chanterelle, Magdalith, and Esther Lamandier, all inspired soloists who were not afraid to realize the spirit underlying sacred song. She dominates this record almost totally, since the men of St. Julien (on the Left Bank, literally, directly facing Notre Dame) simply maintain a drone throughout her singing, which is thrilling in its richness of insight and beauty of tonal production. The chants span Holy Week from Monday to Easter, mostly in Arabic with some alternation in Greek.

Wonder of wonders, the chants are printed in French, English, and German, and the notes explain the significance of each selection briefly. This presumes considerable familiarity with the shape of Byzantine liturgy, but even lacking that you can still follow the meaning of the words, if not of the ritual. The engineering is of surpassing clarity. I'm still waiting for someone to present Byzantine chant fully situated in its ritual setting, but this is the most instructive package we've had in a long time, and it deserves to be heard. I hope Sister Marie will be back soon, but I wouldn't pass this up while I'm waiting.

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