Levine, A Prayers for Mankind
Fr Alexander Men (1935-90) was a Russian Orthodox priest, theologian, scholar and writer. He was also a martyr – he was shot dead en route to his parish. While his writings, which are manifold, are not so far widely known among western Christians, his impact on the Orthodox world has been deep and wide-ranging. This recording, of an extended choral work setting prayers by Fr Alexander, appearing on the 10th anniversary of his death, is timely indeed.
The texts, while they are permeated with reminiscences of the Byzantine liturgy, are very personal indeed, and for that reason Alexander Levine (b1955) has been able to react to them in an equally personal fashion, being guided by the words and the emotional contours of the prayers. But his music is also luminous, because these texts, apparently paradoxically, also embrace the whole of humanity – as he writes in “A Prayer for the Disciples of Christ”, “May everything good and beautiful in the world remind us of You”. Levine is clearly no stranger to the heritage of Russian choral music, but this substantial and often virtuoso work draws from a much wider harmonic palette, and the fact that the words are set in English, and the music intended for Tenebrae, would seem also to have imparted to the work something of an English sound, to which its dedicatees respond with passion. Impressive and moving, and beautifully captured.