This CD contains very significant historical recordings of Byzantine hymns. They were recorded (direct to 78 rpm) by Melpo Merlier for the Greek Society of Folk Songs in 1930. The sound quality is as good as can be expected under the circumstances, which means a lot of surface noise found its way onto the CD. The 21 tracks are organized in two sections, "Hymns of the Passion and the Resurrection" and "Hymns of the Daily Services and the Feasts of the Year." They represent the eight modes and the three types (syllabic, intermediate, mesmatic) of Byzantine music. Half of the hymns are sung by Irineos Papamichail, the Bishop of Samos. His low, warm voice instantly brings an aura of solemnity to the recording. Six pieces are sung by a young Simon Karas, accompanied by the Choir of the Society for Dissemination of National Music (these are the only tracks featuring more than one singer). Dimitris Papapostolis and Dimitris Karonis complete the set with a couple more hymns. For anyone interested in the oral tradition of Byzantine music (there are differences between what was transcribed in the books and what was relayed from mouth to ear), this collection is a must-have. A 27-page booklet filled with informative essays in Greek and English accompanies the CD.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture