A fascinating sound document of a world hidden for decades
Sator | Sydney, Australia | 07/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the sweeping reforms of Alexander the Great Russian music tried to modernise by taking on the compositional practices of Western Europe. The natural reaction to this was to eventually evoke a countermovement that turned to the ancient traditions of the Orthodox Church, all while continuing to assimilate elements of the new Western influence. Most typically the deeply meditative solemnity of the ancient tradition was maintained which contrasted markedly with the often more gradiose statements characteristic of much Western sacred music since the Renaissance. So while the title of the CD 'Divine Theatre - Religious Opera in the Russian Church' seems to promise quasi-operatic theatrics the results here always maintain their underlying solemn austerity. Even where there is a solo part - effectively an arioso - it is always written so that a clergyman could take the part so as to sound like he were reading a passage of the Bible to the congregation.
The composers represented here are mostly from the 19th century. Many of them have so lapsed into obscurity that even their dates are unknown. Others include Chesnakov who was obviously composing before the Russian Revolution but survived the upheavals to live until 1944. The CD is a fascinating documentation of a Russian choral tradition that had been hidden from our view for many decades and much of it of exceptional musical interest.
As usual, I have only superlatives to describe this music making. The choral singing is as exceptional as ever. They belong amongst the finest choirs active today - little wonder they draw admiration from choral directors such as Paul Hillier who called this CD 'delicious'. Combine that with the usual great sound from Opus 111 and you have yet another winner."