June 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Vespers (or All-Night-Vigils)
St Petersburg Academic Cappella (Glinka State Choir)
Saison Russe (harmonia mundi) LDC288050 [61:51]
(1992 recording, also released 1997) [midprice]

Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Rachmaninov's Vespers is surely one of the most sublime and profoundly moving a cappella choral works in the whole repertoire. The Vespers, several sections of which are based on old traditional melodies, might be regarded as a vast choral symphony in which the sacred elements assume epic proportions. Its archaisms recall the majesty of Moscow's Kremlin cathedrals. The work is very accessible, with many fine melodies and colourful episodes.

The Russian choir sing like angels, fully in command of all the demands of this beautifully crafted work with its glorious and colourful multi-part writing utilising so many varied combinations of solos and groups of voices.

To mention only a few of the movements: The deep bass introduction to the opening movement, 'Venez, inclinons-nous devant le Seigneur' that opens out to the radiant, fervent chorus written vertically, most of the time in seven parts with brief vocalises reiterated in several voices. Then there is 'Mon âme, bénis le Seigneur', surely one of Rachmaninov's most beautiful creations with its lovely mezzo-soprano solo and rapt accompanying voices -- alternating male and female voices -- the men descending as low as bottom C. 'Heureux l'homme' has glorious, intensely moving Alleluias, and 'Lumière paisible' is a gently rocking Kiev chant. The 'Hexapsalm', with its tolling bell-like figures and its ecstatic climax fading sweetly and gently away, approaches a theatricality that borders on sacred-opera.

David Nice has said, of this recording, in his BBC Music Magazine's Top 1000 CD Guide, recommendation -- "For absolutely perfect pitching throughout, you need to turn to the British Corydon Singers on Hyperion, but their admirable performance remains within the pure English cathedral-choir tradition. This, the genuine Russian article, is something that can never be simulated." Absolutely!


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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