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Ravishingly Russian / Simpson, Houston Chamber Choir

Release Date: 08/11/2009 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1311   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Alexander DargomizhskySergei TaneyevSergei RachmaninovCésar Cui,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RAVISHINGLY RUSSIAN Robert Simpson, cond; Houston CCh MSR 1311 (48:47 Text and Translation)

DARGOMYZHSKY The Storm Has Wrapped the Sky in Darkness. TANEYEV The Ruins of the Tower. Evening. Behold, Shadows Have Fallen. RACHMANINOFF Panteley the Healer. CUI Hidden Read more Beauty. ARENSKY Nocturne . The Upas Tree. SALMANOV Song. TCHAIKOVSKY The Golden Cloud. The Nightingale. FALIK Unknown Lady. KALINNIKOV The Skylark. Elegy. EKIMOV Kangaroo. ROM Vocalise. GAVRILIN Chimes: Nonsense

Get past the title of this disc. In fact, skip the cover entirely, for this recording of Russian secular music uses nonetheless a church as its icon of Russianness. The program contains no real surprises, but is a pleasure to listen to. The music here is all cut from the conservative cloth of the 1880s, even the post-World War II pieces. It is firmly homophonic, not especially harmonically adventurous, even for its day, and tuneful.

The Dargomyzhsky piece that opens the recital, a quiet, moody chorus, is wonderful, and shows the choir at its very best. Each part is clear in the chords and the balance between parts is near ideal. We hear how well each voice is integrated in the second Tchaikovsky piece, which begins with a unison tenor statement answered by the whole choir. The absolutely unified tenor section is wonderful to hear and it moves seamlessly into and out of the rest of the choir. This coherence of part is essential to the success of the Alexander Rom’s Vocalise. The one piece that departs in any measure from the rest of the program is the delightful nonsense song at the end by Valery Gavrilin, a terrific concert-closer.

The 30 voices of the relatively new (1995) Houston Chamber Choir make some wonderful, if not always especially Russian, noises. Their minimal vibrato gives them a clean sound, but robs them of the heft useful in the Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky pieces. Then, too, a couple of the pieces require the occasional low, low, Russian bass, something the choir is not over-endowed with, though the men give it their best shot.

This music will not light up your ears, but it is elegantly sung and a pleasure to listen to. The recording quality is excellent. Recommended for those who simply want to hear good choral singing.

FANFARE: Alan Swanson
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Works on This Recording

The Storm Has Wrapped the Sky in Darkness by Alexander Dargomizhsky
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 59 Secs. 
The Ruins of the Tower by Sergei Taneyev
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 4 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Panteley the healer by Sergei Rachmaninov
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Evening by Sergei Taneyev
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Behold, Shadows Have Fallen by Sergei Taneyev
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1909; Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Hidden Beauty by César Cui
Period: Romantic 
Length: 2 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Nocturne by Anton Arensky
Period: Romantic 
Length: 3 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Songs (2), Op. 49: no 1, The upas tree by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; Russia 
Length: 4 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Song by Vadim Salmanov
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 21 Secs. 
The golden cloud has slept by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Unknown Lady by Yuri A. Falik
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 21 Secs. 
The Skylark by Viktor Kalinnikov
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
Length: 1 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Elegy by Viktor Kalinnikov
Period: Romantic 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
The nightingale by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Kangaroo by Sergei Ekimov
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Vocalise by Alexander Rom
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Nonsense (from Chimes) by Valerii Gavrilin
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 16 Secs. 

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