Stewart has a beautifully pure, almost choirboy like soprano. The opening track, 'Veni, Emanuel', in two parts presumably created by multi-tracking, sets a mood of introspective calm which prevails throughout. Stewart's ornamentation of the vocal line in Victoria's 'Ne timeas, Maria' is exquisite and her interpretation of Tromboncino brings out the intensity of religious devotion, but also subdued passion inherent in Petrarch's poetry. Some of the more traditional numbers, such as 'The Angel Gabriel' and 'Josef, lieber, Josef mein' could perhaps have been a bit livelier to make a contrast but overall the performances are flawless with such perfect clarity of diction that reference to any liner notes is superfluous. The lute solos include original pieces by Francesco da Milano, Marco dal l'Aquila and Dalza together with skillful and convincing arrangements of an anonymous English 'In nomine' and Victoria's motet 'Duo Seraphim'. The original version of the latter is unusually but appropriately scored for S.S.A.A., the voices being paired in a way that suggests the two seraphim crying out to one another. I wasn't sure whether the arrangement was actually for two Ron Andricos, or just one managing some very elaborate counterpoint but either way the piece was worked very convincingly. Andrico plays two different lutes, one in E and the other in G, as far as I could make out the smaller one being used for the solo work and the larger to accompany. The smaller one has a particularly appealing tone quality.
The liner notes which come with the CD are very brief, supplying the words and translations of the vocal pieces only if the original is not in English. There is a note saying that full texts and programme notes are available on the duo's website although I couldn't find these when I visited it. However it seems that they were the victims of a particularly nasty carjacking in which a large number of their CDs were stolen and are now being offered for sale by dodgy outlets. So if you decide to purchase it, it would be best to do so through a reputable source.
The CD would make the ideal Christmas gift for lutenists and anyone who prefers to celebrate the season of peace and goodwill far from the madding crowd of commercialism. --Monica Hall in Lute News, newsletter of the Lute Society (UK), Number 88, December 2008
As a jaded and sated holiday listener, I am drawn to anything lacking in kitsch, and there is nothing I've heard this season further from the manufactured art of American Christmas than Duo Seraphim. Surely, this is listening to holiday music without listening to "holiday music"...There are a lot of ways to get at the holiday spirit; Duo Seraphim has chosen the road less traveled, putting together a unique and substantial collection of latinesque works, adorned only with voice and lute. --Richard Banks at Christmascdreviews.com