A history of Russian Orthodox sacred music from the ‘Moscow Baroque’ to the present day, including many rare and long unavailable recordings.
During the past century Russian Orthodox vocal music has experienced two periods of rebirth. The first, which began in the last years of the 19th century, consisted of a return to the popular sources of religious chant in the znamenny chant tradition passed down from its origins in ancient Byzantine chant and maintained by churches and choirs across Russia until the 17th century, when rulers such as Catherine the Great began to look westwards for cultural identity. Composers such as Kastalsky, Chesnokov and Grechaninov repudiated the Italian and French influences which had shaped the work of Classical and Romantic-era composers such as the Sacred Concertos of Bortniansky. repudiated the Italian and French influences which had shaped the work of Classical and Romantic-era composers such as the Sacred Concertos of Bortniansky.
This renaissance was foreshadowed by Tchaikovsky’s setting of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in 1878 – in its time a controversial work, rejected by the Church – and reached its zenith with the two sacred cycles by Rachmaninoff: another setting of the Liturgy and then his religious masterpiece, the Vespers (All Night Vigil) of 1915. Once more suppressed by the 1917 Revolution, an authentic strain of Russian sacred music had to wait until the era of glasnost in the late 1980s and early 90s
Rybin Male Choir could once more be formed to sing and record the repertoire that is their country’s musical inheritance, and most of these recordings date from the early 90s, first released on the ‘Saison Russe’ imprint for its renewal. Ensembles such as the of the Chant du Monde label, long unavailable and now reissued here for the first time.
As well as the composers mentioned above, the box surveys many lesser-known figures, mostly from the pre-Revolutionary era such as Alexander Nikolsky, Nikolai Kedrov and Konstantin Shvedov, as well as the Six Chants Op.1 by a figure more familiar as an inspirational conductor, Nikolai Golovanov. The Eight Sacred Choruses in Memory of Boris Pasternak represent the work of the dissident composer Nikolai Karetnikov, and the survey comes up to date with the figures of Yan Burakovsky, a tragically short-lived pupil of Alfred Schnittke who died in 1983, and Valery Kalistratov, born in 1942. The set is a unique, compact but comprehensive survey of a musical genre revealed to be much more various than its conventional associations with low basses and dirge-like hymns: an essential acquisition for any choral-music enthusiast.
“The liturgy of St John Chrysostom is one of the most exalted works of art. Anyone following the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox service attentively trying to comprehend the meaning of each ceremony will be stirred to the very depth of his being. I am also very fond of evening prayers. There is nothing like entering an ancient church on a Saturday, standing in the semi-darkness with the scent of incense wafting through the air, lost in deep contemplation to find an answer to those perennial questions: wherefore, when, whither and why?". This quote by Tchaikovsky sums up the emotional impact of the Russian Orthodox music upon listeners all around the globe: the deep sincerity and spirituality of this eternal music.
This new set brings together sacred choral music by Russian composers: Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Bortniansky, Gretchaninov, Kastalsky, Kalinnikov, Ippolitov-Ivanov and many others.
Sung by the best Russian choirs, such as the Rybin Choir and the Dumka Choir.