Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vespers Op. 37.
Olga Berusene, soprano, Yuri Korinnyk, tenor, Mykhaylo Tyshchencko, tenor
National Academic Choir of Ukraine/Yevhen Savchuk.
Regis RRC1043 [DDD] [62'00]
Around £6 from retailers Regis

  • Come, let us worship 1.46
  • Bless the Lord, O my soul 4.52
  • Blessed be the Man 5.40
  • O serene light 3.29
  • Now let Thy Servant depart 3.59
  • Rejoice, O Virgin 2.26
  • Glory to God in the Highest 2.50
  • Praise the Name of the Lord 2.33
  • Blessed art Thou, O Lord 6.02
  • Having seen the Resurrection of the Lord 3.16
  • My soul magnifies the Lord 9.45
  • Glory to God in the Highest 7.47
  • Troparia of the Day of Salvation 1.58
  • Christ is risen from the grave 3.31
  • Thanks be given to the Mother of God 1.48

Recorded in the wonderfully resonant acoustic of Kiev Cathedral in December 2000, this performance of Rachmaninov's Vespers (All-Night Vigil), Op. 37 speaks with a beautifully and specifically Russian intensity. That it retails at budget price is really quite astonishing.

In his Vespers, Rachmaninov draws on chant from the Russian tradition to provide an intense and moving experience. The work was written in 1915, and was an immediate success.

The National Academic Choir of Ukraine clearly lives and breathes this music, the truly authentic (sub-contra) basses plumbing the lower regions to give enormous depth to the choral sound where necessary. Listen to the very end of Bless the Lord, O my soul, or to the end of Now let thy Servant depart for perfect examples of this. There is a serenity to the whole performance which draws the listener in: the 'Alleluias' of Blessed be the man are filled with a mix of awe and joy, whilst the opening of the fourth section, O serene joy, is filled with contained ecstasy.

Of the soloists, tenor Yuri Korinnyk is somewhat nasal and forced in Now let thy Servant depart. However the hypnotic and totally committed singing of the Ukrainian choir more than compensates for any shortcomings.

The emotional (and dynamic) range of this choir makes for an uplifting experience. Their clarity of diction, unanimity of attack and the careful balance elicited by the conductor combine to make the slow-moving changes of harmony mesmeric. The recording captures the cathedral acoustics without being over-resonant, to the credit of the engineers.

The Hyperion Twentieth Anniversary version of the Vespers (on CDA20460) is a fine account, but is nevertheless superseded at a lower price range by the present issue. Recommended.

Colin Clarke

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