"As a great fan of this particular piece of music, I can honestly say that the performance given here far outstrips any other that I have experienced, even that of the St. Petersburg chorus, which sounds weak and unrehearsed in comparison. It is hard to imagine a more convincing, moving, and wholly satisfying account of this great masterpiece, which I think is perhaps the most demanding and exacting choral music ever. Those who listen with a pre-concieved notion that an English choir could never do this music justice will be silenced immediately by the blistering opening chords, or the visceral climax of "The Veneration of the Cross". Yet, the "boy-choir" sound that King's is able to achieve allows for unparalelled clarity in the most introspective moments, such as the poignant tenor solo in the Nunc Dimmitis where the blending of accompanying tenors' and altos' imitation of tolling bells is absolutely breathtaking. The delicate shifts in harmony are like glass, threatening to shatter if even one small mistake in intonation or diction is made...this choir makes none. Another highlight is the climax of the Hexapsalmos (movement 7) where the choir works itself into a cosmic frenzy, exploding into a great wash of sound on the word "slava"(glory), and immediately subdues itself for the hushed ending. Anyone who has not experienced this recording is missing a truly moving, spiritual experience. By far the best account of this piece, ever."
Highly Recommended Rachmaninoff Vespers
127 | Michigan | 05/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a piece of outstanding work from the Choir of King's College. Its principal difference from other recordings is that it uses boy sopranos instead of a mixed choir and, while I was initially skeptical, I would call this CD a great success.Ensemble, balance, and intonation are excellent throughout, as is recording quality. The boy soprano timbre floats on top of the group excellently, although it does strain in some of the louder sections and towards the end. The basses have a solid low C, although the Bb is inconsistent and not secure enough at the end of V. The group's Russian diction is uniform and excellent as well. Mr. Cleobury does a particularly beautiful job of crafting the melodic lines in IX, X, and XI. Some of the tempos are faster than other recordings and I wish that he had let his choir take V at the same pace as XI. The Nunc Dimittis here is one of the fastest that I have heard, and although the intonation and ensemble never suffer, some of the words do blur together. I would prefer that the soloist tone it down a bit as well, especially in V, where I heard the same bizarre ornament that Robert Shaw's tenor soloist inserted.This recording also opens with chant, which seems to be becoming standard procedure on newer recordings, as groups are working to recreate the liturgical setting of the work. Notes are good throughout, and transliterated texts and translations (as well as sources) are included. I wish that someone would include the original text in Cyrillic letters with a recording of this work!This is an excellent Vespers recording, although it doesn't beat out Chernushenko's on Russian Season. The use of boy sopranos gives it something unique to offer and the recording is certainly not short on emotion. If you enjoy choral music, this deserves a place in your collection. It is a great way to enjoy one of music greatest treasures."
127 | 11/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I came to this disc with bland thoughts of how done to death King's College Cambridge is, and expecting the performance to be a lukewarm imitation of those I have heard by real Russian choirs. I came away from it with a whole new appreciation of the choir and the talents of Stephen Cleobury. It wins over many of it's counterparts by virtue of the wholly "English" sound of the choir- for an example one need only listen to the Nunc Dimittis (worth the price of the whole disc) and be haunted forever by the sound of the tenors and countertenors, singing at the extremities of their range with utmost precision and splendour. The trebles are predictably pure toned; the basses negotiate the low B flats superbly (although they sound too raspy to have a convincingly "Russian" sound) and the language is superbly pronounced. Why oh why does Cleobury always call on some operatic-sounding soprano (or contralto in this case) to do the solos? The second canticle, "Blogoslovi Dushe Moya", is well sung but you get the feel that this is the kind of voice that belongs on stage, not in a church. But that is a minor point. Purchase this CD and it will fill your soul. I would be surprised if anyone could not be touched by it. [And in particular, John Tavener addicts like me will simply not be able to stop listening to it...]"
Sam N. Keyes | 12/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Already being a big fan of both English church music and Rachmaninov's piano/orchestra works, I thought this would be a good purchase. Though I'm not especially familiar with Russian choral work, I can understand how this might sound "English," but I think that it's divine. These voices are such a delight to listen to; I never knew that Rach was such a talented choral composer. It is wonderful to hear the Kings College choir in such an ecstatic diversion from their usual works in English. Well worth it."