Since Gloriæ Dei Cantores are one of North America’s finest non-professional choirs with at least 50 CDs to their credit, it was just a matter of time before they committed Rachmaninov’s sublime All-Night Vigil to disc. Conductor Peter Jermihov’s booklet-notes rightly point out how one cannot separate the pursuit of musical excellence from this work’s liturgical context. Tempos, for example, should be governed by the natural flow of the hymns on which the movements are based, while Rachmaninov’s relatively sparse indications of pulse are essentially precautionary guides for the conductor. Furthermore, Jermihov’s recording incorporates introductory introits by the Priest and Deacon that are usually omitted for recording purposes.
In the main, Jermihov aims for clearly delineated polyphony and transparent textures. Note, for example, the vividly characterised contrasts in articulation and sonority throughout ‘Praise the Name of the Lord’, or the sustained delicacy and dead-on intonation in The Lesser Doxology’s final pages. The Great Doxology’s concluding section is a revealing example of how to generate tension, excitement and forward momentum through understatement. Mariya Berezovska’s wobbly alto solo neither helps nor hurts in the second movement but the ardent lyricism of tenor Dmitry Ivanchenko’s solo contributions is decidedly a positive asset.
To be certain, the interpretation yields to the extraordinary heft and luminosity that Charles Bruffy achieves with his combined Phoenix and Kansas City choirs, as well as the resonant impact of Chandos’s multichannel sound, even if some listeners might prefer Jermihov’s less protracted, more conventional tempos. Still and all, Jermihov’s idiomatic vision offers much to savour. This release comes with a useful, beautifully illustrated booklet containing full texts and translations, prefaced by information pertaining to the origin of each hymn.