Simon Boswell & Stefano Mainetti
Sancta dei Genitrix (Holy Mother of God) Stefano Mainetti
Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church)
Auxilium Christianorum (Mary help of Christians)
Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) Nour Eddine
Advocata Nostra (Our Advocate) Simon Boswell
Benedicta Tu (You are blessed)
Causa Nostrae Laetitiae (Cause of our joy)
Magistra Nostra (Our Teacher)
Yasemin Sannino (soprano)
Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome
S. Veronica Parrocchia di S. Maria Nascente in Bonemerse (Cr)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
CD No: GEFFEN RECORDS 4763664 Duration: 50 minutes Reviewed: November 2009
Music from the Vatican – Alma Mater – featuring the voice of Pope Benedict XVI
Reviewed by Chris Caspell
No doubt timed to tickle the Christmas market, “Alma Mater” is an interesting conglomeration of lush strings, choral unisons and the words of the Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. The idea behind the album is a spiritual celebration of the Alma Mater, Mary, mother of Christ. The serendipitous twist however is in the choice of composers – Mainetti is Catholic, Boswell is ‘undeclared’ and Eddine is Muslim. That Eddine is the composer of only one piece is perhaps a shame as his Moroccan harmonies add real world-music bite.
The album has been assembled taking audio from Vatican Radio together with recordings of the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome recorded in St Peter’s Basilica. Add to the mixture the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road and you have something that is far removed from an easily repeatable performance and one that has the potential to be an unholy din. However, apart from very occasional ‘un-togetherness’, the effect is quite beautiful and the combination of tracks and composers sit well together.
His holiness, speaking in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German, does so in a manner that is gentle and guiding – more elderly-relative than fundamental dogmatist. The Pope is heard reciting prayers and passages from Lauretan Litanies and Marian popular chants – chants that have echoed through St Peter’s for centuries.
The music contained in the eight tracks, though simplistic, embraces the soupy attractiveness of the film score. Both Mainetti and Boswell are celebrated film composers, with Boswell perhaps unfairly remembered chiefly for “Pornography: The Musical”, though stylistically the music on this disc is far removed from the banality of the Channel 4 production.
Overall this is a release that will delight the easy-listening enthusiasts and be disparaged by elitists – in anticipation of the predictable feuding during the family festivities of “EastEnders”, perhaps this is the perfect accompaniment to your Christmas dinner!