"Byzantine - Nektaria Karantzi receives a 5-star rating from a distinguished magazine"
An excellent and detailed 5-star review for Nektaria's Karantzi's new album "Byzantine", by Colin Clarke, one of the most acclaimed reviewers of the iconic Gramophone and Fanfare magazines.
"This disc showcases both Byzantine chant of the early Christian era and its journey through the ages, and the talents of “chanter” Nektaria Karantzi.
“ The music is timeless; so is Karantzi’s voice, recorded with a nice amount of reverberation. ”
Of particular interest are those pieces dedicated to the Theotokos (the Mother of God), an area where Karantzi herself has focused her research.
The music is timeless; so is Karantzi’s voice, recorded with a nice amount of reverberation. The pieces appear here in their most simple and most potent form: one voice, offering herself to the Christian God. It’s fascinating to hear the way the pitch bends in "Do not turn Your face from me" as a mode of expression. The music is positively transfixing. Probably the best equivalent I can cite for collectors is the Hyperion disc of music by Hildegard of Bingen, A feather on the breath of God (with Emma Kirkby and Gothic Voices), which occupies a similar place of spiritual wisdom and peace, both completely removed from the hustle and bustle of contemporary life. Karantzi’s voice has no or little vibrato, yet is intensely expressive in its own right; and the decorations of the melodic lines add a special intensity to the music.
The appearance of the apolytikia (plural of apolytikon, or dismissal hymn) to two significant recent Saints of the Orthodox Christian world, Saint Nektarios the Bishop of Pentapolis and Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, is significant, as Nektaria sees herself as a “spiritual child” of the latter: with his encouragement, she started her studies in Byzantine music at an early age. The complex emotions of the text of "Do not turn Your face from me" (with that Christianist capitalization of the “Y”) is a fine example of the plagal mode (fourth tone), the text from the Psalms of David; the emotion here is laden with sadness and disappointment, and the melody’s very directionless gait seems to represent the internal turmoil of the singer.
The familiar Kyrie eleison is heard here in a timeless garb; it is as if it descends straight from the Heavens (it is actually composed by the Monks of Mount Athos and is performed in Greek, Romanian, Russian, and Polish). One of the most beautiful of melodies, surely, is that of Moses at the time of temperance (“... received the Law and drew the people”) and Karantzi delivers it with supreme concentration and awe-inspiring breath control. But surely the most ancient offering here is the Trisagios Hymn (also known as “Trisagion” or “Agios o Theos,” the most ancient entrance hymn from the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Christian Church, to a text by Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople.
Each of the pieces is identified in terms of type (“Epilychnios Hymn” and so on), its place in the liturgy and its Tone is given. Composers are given where possible, including attributions (for example for Gladsome Light, composed by the Hymnographer and Holy Martyr Athenogenes, “according to the testimony of St. Basil”); in the case of the Apolytikion of St. Porphyrios and St. Nektarios, this appears to be an elision of two pieces (the text is differentiated in the documentation via italics and non-italic).
Inevitably belief plays a part in our responses (I find the text of Which God is as great as our God quite inappropriately amusing, as if this is a football league of Gods and Goddesses, with the Christian God at the top of the Premier League), but even as a non-Christian I find the sincerity of Karantzi’s delivery touching on a deep level.
There is huge variety of expression here, from contemplation to the (retrained) exaltation of Christ is Risen, with which the disc closes. A fascinating excursion into the Byzantine world".
About the album
A collection of Byzantine ecclesiastic hymns in Greek by Nektaria Karantzi (http://www.nektariakarantzi.com), the distinguished female chanter, whose works are widely recognized in the sacred art of Byzantine music. The album includes ancient hymns, from the early Christian period, such as “Gladsome Light” and “Christ is Risen”, hymns dedicated to the Theotokos -a repertoire to which Karantzi has centered her research in recent years- hymns of Great Lent and Holy Week, such as the well-known “They stripped me of my garments” and “Today, He hangs on the Cross”, as well as apolytikia for two significant recent Saints of the Orthodox Christian world, Saint Nektarios, Bishop of Pentapolis, and Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, of whom Nektaria was a spiritual child. It includes also the famous «Kyrie Eleison» («Lord have mercy»), composed by the monks of Mount Athos, performed in Greek, Romanian, Russian and Polish. The hymns are a cappella and without the accompaniment of a Byzantine Isokratima (Ison), conveyed in their simplest form, revealing the overwhelming power of the solitary voice of prayer. The album presents ancient hymns and poems of Saint Hymnographers of the 2nd to 9th centuries in musical compositions of the great teachers of psaltic art of the 18th and 19th centuries (Petros Peloponnesios or Lampadarios, Georgios Redestinos), as well as musical arrangements and explanations of more recent great teachers of the 20th and 21st centuries (Athanassios Karamanis, Charilaos Taliadoros etc.), based on the classic works of Byzantine ecclesiastical music. The «Byzantine» produced by the acclaimed pianist, conductor and composer Vassilis Tsabropoulos for MSO Records – Musica Sacra Series, distributed by Challenge Records (https://bit.ly/3A4Ykuu). The album is also available on all digital music stores, music platforms and streaming services. It includes booklet with information about the works (hymnographers, melodists, liturgical place in orthodox Christian worship services) and lyrics in English language.
1. "All of creation rejoices in You" 3:52 Plagal First Tone. Poem by Saint John of Damascus (8th cent.). Composed by Socratis Papadopoulos and arranged by Charilaos Taliadoros (20th- 21st cent.).
2. "Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos" 2:59 Plagal First Tone. Poem by Saint Cyril of Alexandria (late 4th – middle 5th cent.). Composed by Nicolaos Vlahopoulos
3. "Behold, God entrusts the talent to you" 3:32 Poem by Saint Andrew of Crete (7th- 8th cent.). Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.) and arranged by Athanasios Karamanis (20th cent.).
4. "Gladsome Light" 2:36 Second Tone. Composed by the Hymnographer and Holy Martyr Athenogenes (2nd- 3rd cent.).
5. "Evlogetaria" 5:44 Plagal First Tone. Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.) and arranged by Athanasios Karamanis (20th cent.).
6. "Moses at the time of temperance" 4:27 Plagal Second Tone. Poem by Leo (8th cent.). Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.) and arranged by Chrysanthos Theodosopoulos (20th cent.).
7. "We Praise You" 1:13 Plagal First Tone. Poem by Saint Ambrose of Milan (4th cent.). Composed by Gerasimos Kanellides (19th cent.).
8. Apolytikion of St Porphyrios & St Nektarios 2:57 Prosomion: “A citizen of the desert”, First Tone.
9. "Seeing You on the Cross" 2:49 Second Tone. Poem by the Byzantine emperor Leo VI the Wise (9th cent.). Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.) and arranged by Athanasios Karamanis (20th cent.).
10. "Do not turn Your face from me" 3:02 Plagal Fourth Tone. Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.) and arranged by Chrysanthos Theodosopoulos (20th cent.). 4
11. "Kyrie Eleison" 2:54 Plagal First Tone. Performed in Greek, Romanian, Russian and Polish. Composed by the monks of Mount Athos.
12. Trisagios Hymn 6:37 First Tone. Poem by Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople (4th-5th cent.). Composed by Kyriakos Ioannidis “Kalogeros” (19th–20th cent.).
13. "They stripped me of my garments" 3:18 Plagal Second Tone. Poem by Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem (6th- 7th cent.). Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.).
14. "My soul" 2:53 Second Tone. Poem by Saint Andrew of Crete (7th- 8th cent.). Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.) and arranged by Athanasios Karamanis (20th cent.).
15. "Today He hangs on the Cross" 4:21 Plagal Second Tone. Composed by Georgios Redestinos (19th cent.).
16. "Which God is as great as our God?" 2:21 Grave Tone. Composed by Petros Lampadarios (18th cent.).
17. "Christ is Risen" 1:58 Ancient hymn from the early christian period, Plagal First Tone.
About the Singer: Her voice has been identified mainly with the Byzantine sacred art and has been internationally acclaimed as one of the most important voices in Byzantine Chant and Sacred Music. Having made a remarkable impact around the world with her concerts and discography in Byzantine music, her performances are purely devoted to Byzantine Chant, the Mediterranean primeval musical tradition the religious music in Greek, Romanian, Arabic, Russian, Italian, French, Aramaic (the language of Jesus Christ) etc. The Greek vocalist Nektaria Karantzi has also been invited for Master Classes from some of the most renowned educational and musical centers in Europe, such as the Liszt Academy in Hungary, the Sorbonne University in France, the University of Oviedo in Spain etc.
She is the unique Greek female performer of Byzantine music with discography in Byzantine music since she was fourteen and with active work of chanting as a chorister in church since she was nine. In her first recordings of chanting she accompanied a contemporary saint, Saint Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite and with his encouragement she started her studies in Byzantine Music at a very early age. Nektaria Karantzi is also well-known in Greek music stage through her collaboration with the greatest teacher of the Greek Traditional Music Chronis Aidonides. The important moment of her career is her collaboration with the internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and conductor Vassilis Tsabropoulos in an artistic combination inspired by byzantine hymns joining West and East and toured in Europe several times.
She has collaborated with the great traditional singer of Hungary, Marta Sebestyen, the chanter Sister Kassiani, the acclaimed male choir of Budapest “St Ephraim male choir”, under the direction of Tamas Bubno, the Swiss choir of orthodox chant “Choeur Yaroslavl”, under the direction of Yan Greppin, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra of Athens, under the direction Vassilis Tsabropoulos, the National Symphony Orchetsra of Skopje, under the direction of LêPhi Phi etc. She also made the soundtrack of the spiritual serbian film Isceljenje’ (The Healing), by Ivan Jovic.
Some special times of concerts were her participation in the concert at the Theological School of Chalki (Constantinople), under the aegis and presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople Bartholomew, in the concert tributed to the 70 years of the Apostolic Diakonia of Church of Greece, at the Athens Concert Hall, under the aegis and presence of blessed Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Christodoulos and in the concert for the inauguration of the Athens Cathedral, Concert for the Inauguration of the Athens Cathedral, under the aegis and presence of blessed Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Ieronymos II. Nektaria has also been involved in several television projects, such as the "Epikranthi" series, with byzantine hymns, filmed at the byzantine town of Mystras for the Greek National TV.
She is the Founder and the Honorary President of the “Women in Byzantine Music worldwide Association” and she is the President of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra of Athens, which is under the aegis of the Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Ieronymos II. She has been honored by the blessed Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece Christodoulos. She also has been honored for her contribution to Byzantine Music by the Byzantine Chanters through the Hellenic Musicological Society –Institute for Byzantine and Greek Traditional Music Studies and the music magazine «To Psaltiri”. She has been honored by the Byzantine Chanters of Rhodes island and the Cultural Association of Vatika and she is honorary member of the Cultural Association of the Peloponnesians of the Rhodes island "Morias". Nektaria has studied Law, undertook postgraduates in Penal Law, Criminology, Ecclesiastical Law and she is also a Doctor of Laws.