The commercial recording history of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil stretches back only 50 years, with at least three outstanding versions having been released in the past three years. Now, in its centenary year, comes this collaboration between two top-flight Grammy Award-winning chamber choirs based 1200 miles apart, in Phoenix, Arizona and Kansas City. They share an Artistic Director, Charles Bruffy, a former tenor soloist with the doyen of American choral conductors, Robert Shaw.
The combined 56 voices are beautifully balanced and set back at some distance from the microphones in the cavernous acoustic of the Cathedral of St Peter the Apostle in Kansas City. Intonation is spot-on throughout this taxing work and there are no audible edits. In addition to coaxing an ultra-smooth blend to the choral sound Bruffy has also – by disregarding a fair number of Rachmaninov’s markings – rubbed off some of the crispness of articulation which this mostly slow music surely demands. This is a chromium-plated interpretation, made almost glacial at times by the adopting of lower-than-expected metronomic speeds. Bruffy manages to make the Vigil stretch to over 75 minutes. Compare this with the Netherlands Radio Choir, under Kaspars Putniņš, who dispatch the piece in just under 52 minutes. Full marks, though, to the splendid soloists, especially Julia Scozzafava, whose alto solo sounds like the genuine article.