Rachmaninov Vespers

Author: 
John Warrack

Rachmaninov Vespers

  • Vespers, 'All-Night Vigil'
  • Vespers, 'All-Night Vigil'

The St Petersburg Chamber Choir sing the Vespers, or All-Night Vigil, dramatically, suggesting comparisons with Rostropovich rather than with the more hieratic versions by Chernushenko. Korniev follows the composer's markings carefully, but he is evidently concerned to give a concert performance of vivid immediacy, and there are places where this departs from the reflective or celebratory nature of music that is so strongly grounded in Orthodox tradition. This is most marked with Olga Borodina, who is not the first fine singer to bring too operatic a note to her solo in ''Blagoslovi, dushe moya'' (''Bless the Lord, O my soul''); Vladimir Mostowoy is more discreet in ''Blagosloven esi'' (''Blessed art Thou''). The choir itself is excellent, with particularly fine sopranos who can chant high above the others in beautifully pitched thirds; while there is, as ever in Russian church choirs, a splendid bass section that can underpin the textures with effortlessly rich low Cs, and find no difficulty with the famous descending scale down to a sonorous bottom B flat at the end of ''Nyne otpushchayeshi'' (the Nunc Dimittis).
The recording is not always as clear as it could be with the textures and especially the words. A strength of the issue, which distinguishes it from almost all others available, is the booklet, which not only includes the full text in transliteration (with English, German and French translations), but includes excellent essays. The English one, by Fr Philip Speer, helpfully explains how the musical numbers fit into and serve the liturgy; in German (with French translation) Kadja Gronke gives a good historical background; and Carlo Vitali's Italian essay makes some interesting comparisons with Roman Catholic traditions.'

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