The concert last night was fantastic!
The St. Petersburg Chamber Choir was founded in 1997 by Nikolai Kornev who is still its main conductor. The repertoire is wide, ranging from renaissance to more contemporary; and the singers, 20 men and 20 women, are trained at top musical institutions in Russia. They have won many prizes, even a Grammy, and made a number of albums.
The programme for the night was to sing a number of parts of the All-Night Vigil, which is a part of the Vespers of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943). They started off, however, with some other pieces that offered context for Rachmaninoff and his work.
The first were four pieces of A Russian Requiem, by Alexander Dmitriyevich Kastalsky (1856-1926). Kastalsky, who studied under Tchaikovsky, was a prolific composer, writing at least 130 choral pieces between 1896 and 1917 and as such greatly influenced, among others, Rachmaninoff. Then came six pieces of the Liturgy of St. John Crystostomus by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). His work in composing these pieces allowed others to also write new music to known hymns. People such as his student Kastalsky, and Rachmaninoff. Combined, Tchaikovsky greatly influenced Russian sacred music, and Kastalsky influenced, and advised, Rachmaninoff. Together, this brings us the masterpiece that is the Vespers.
The Vespers are a complicated work, with melody lines and dynamics that go all over the place, from serene to exuberant. It hearkens back to older church traditions, even though Rachmaninoff was fairly ambivalent towards the church, by using older melodies and an occasional more recitative style. Vocally, the Vespers ask a lot from the singers, with extreme highs and lows, and complicated techniques.
Now, I’m not well-versed, or versed at all, in classical singing so I have no words to describe what they did and how they did it. I just know I loved it. And based on the standing ovation, so did the rest of the audience.
The only shame was that there were so many empty spots in the room. The performance was in the great hall of the Oosterpoort, and it can seat a great many people, but that great many people weren’t there. It almost felt a little disrespectful 🙁 Although I can imagine that the accoustics of the great hall are better for a work like this.
Alexander Dmitriyevich Kastalsky: A Russian Requiem
- Requiem aeternam
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Liturgy of St. John Crystostomus
- Symbol of belief
- After the symbol of belief
- After the exclamation “Thine from Thine”
- After the words “Especially for our most Holy”
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Communion hymn
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Vespers op. 37 “All-Night Vigil”
- 1. O come, let us worship
- 2. Bless the Lord, o my soul
- 3. Blessed is the man
- 4. O Jesus Christ
- 5. Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant
- 6. Virgin, Mother of God
- 7. Glory to God in the highest
- 8. Praise ye the name of the Lord
- 9. Blessed art thou, o Lord
- 10. Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ
- 11. My soul doth magnify the Lord
- 12. Glory to God in the highest
- 13. Today is salvation come
- 14. Rising from the tomb
- 15. To thee, o Mother of God
If you want to listen to the Vespers yourself, the album they made of it a few years ago is available on Spotify.