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Sacred Songs of Russia
Alexander KASTALSKY (1856-1926)

Christ is risen
Radiant Light
Pavel CHESNOKOV (1877-1944)

Bless the Lord, O my soul
Praise the name of the Lord
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Rejoice, O virgin
The Mother of God, ever vigilant in prayer
Georgy SVIRIDOV (1915-1998)

Three choruses from Tsar Feodor Ionnovich
Znamenny Chant

Lord, I call/The King of Heaven
Vassily TITOV (c1650-c1710)

O Virgin unwedded
Dmitri BORTNIANSKY (1751-1825)

Glory to God in the Highest
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)

Cherubic Hymn
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

A Mercy of Peace
The Angel cried
Hymn in Honour of SS Cyril and Methodius
Stepan SMOLENSKY (1848-1909)

All of Creation rejoices
Alexander ARKHANGELSKY (1846-1924)

Litany of Supplication
Nikolai KEDROV (1871-1940)

Our Father
Andre Papkov (bass)
Gloriæ Dei Cantores/Elizabeth C Patterson
Recorded 1990

This is an impressive conspectus of Russian liturgical music. In Gloriæ Dei Cantores one has a choir of eloquent and idiomatic depth and their director, Elizabeth Patterson, encourages strongly powerful sonorities in this most demanding of repertoires. From Vassily Titov (b c1650) to Georgy Sviridov (who died in 1998) the disc is a necessarily brief but well crafted selection to embrace unison and monophonic chants, polyphony, the westernized sacred choral concertos as well as the more accustomed responses and arrangements of chants.

The choir, based in Cape Cod, has made a number of tours to Russia. Its forty members sing with devoted passion. Kastalsky’s Christ is Risen is bold and declamatory whilst their singing of Chesnokov’s Bless the Lord, O My Soul has a grave nobility to it. Svirdov takes the same hymn as Rachmaninov (Rejoice, O Virgin) and constructs a setting of compact exultation. Austere or rich each setting embodies great and concentrated power, with bass Andre Papkov adding his powerful contributions to expressive effect, the downward extensions hewn as if from the clay itself. I admired the melismatic sopranos in Sacred Love from the second of Sviridov’s Three Choruses (part of the incidental music for Tolstoy’s play Tsar Feodor Ioannovich – and impressive music at that) as I did the Znamenny monophonic chant Lord, I call in which the dynamic implications are securely followed. Bortniansky follows the sacred concerto, an Italian importation, and does so with a good grasp of its compact fluorescence and also its mellow reflectiveness. The three stanzas are set with real flair and understanding of the stylistic and evocative potential of the texts and it makes for an emotionally satisfying mid point in the recital, one which points to the internalization of (relatively) florid external models by native Russian composers.

There is real austere nobility, a defining gravity, in Smolensky’s All of Creation Rejoices, an arrangement of a Chant melody sung at the festive Liturgy of St Basil the Great and Smolensky’s influence on Grechaninov and Rachmaninov in terms of sacred composition is undeniable. The exchanges between Deacon and the choral responses exemplified by Arkhangelsky’s Litany of Supplication – those responses frequently and idiomatically softened – are impressively done as is the final piece, Nikolai Kedrov’s Our Father a work of affecting delicacy.

The booklet prints transliterated Russian texts with English translations and gives a few descriptive sentences of each work. The Choir has done themselves and their source material proud.

Jonathan Woolf



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