> BEREZOVSKY Ukranian Sacred Music Vol 1 [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Maksym BEREZOVSKY (c1745-1777)
Ukrainian Sacred Music Volume 1

Eucharistic Verses
Choral Concert – Let the Lord enthrone

Vidrodzhennya Chamber Choir
Mstyslav Yurchenko, Choirmaster
Recorded Refectory Church of Kyiv 2000
CLAUDIO CB 4730-2 [63.39]


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Berezovsky’s contribution to Russian musical life was significant. There is debate as to his year of birth – though 1745 seems to be a reasonable guess – and legend has it that he was born "to Cossacks in the town of Glukhov" in Eastern Ukraine. But his apprenticeship was a classic one, entirely familiar to composers in Western Europe – he studied under Padre Martini in Bologna, writing the first opera and Violin Sonata by an Ukrainian/Russian composer. The notes of this most welcome disc are somewhat elliptical on the point but I infer that he committed suicide at 32.

The CD divides broadly into two parts – Liturgy and Eucharistic Verses. It seems fair to agree with the sleeve-note that musico-religiously Berezovsky’s impulse was to try to bring the form of Ukrainian liturgy closer to the Catholic Mass. Presumably his firm Italian grounding had equipped him to that effect and the impress of the music, notwithstanding the native forms Berezovsky employs, seem to demonstrate it conclusively. In the Credo of the Liturgy, the remarkable, rapid homophonic chant is one such example of Berezovsky’s use of a national tradition. It is a spectacular piece of music, well negotiated by the choir, and was published several times in Russia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Typically eloquent expressively is Meet it is, a small masterpiece of a setting from the Liturgy.

The Eucharistic Verses consist of two stanza verses and a refrain to "Alleluia." Within the seemingly limited, indeed self-limiting form, Berezovsky constructs compact polyphonic movements. The flexible basses in The Salvation Cup I will receive embody an already characteristic Russian tradition. In Joy for the Blessed, a very short setting, we can hear some wayward and exposed voices in the female choir – there is some bulging of the line elsewhere, notably from the women. There are three settings of Praise the Lord, of which the third is the most propulsive, devotionally ecstatic and least inward looking. Let the Lord Enthrone is one of the so-called Choral Concerts, a form at which Berezovsky was particularly adept and one of only three such to survive. His Italianate training equipped him with a sure lyrical gift, though the work is itself thematically uncomplex. Nevertheless his singular sensitivity for word setting and placement is always in evidence. In four recognisable movements in its barely six minute span it brings to an end a revealing disc. A pity there are no texts.

Jonathan Woolf


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