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Russian Choral Music - Sviridov: Puskin's Garland, Etc / Elena Rastvorova, Moscow New Choir

Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Musical Concepts   Catalog #: 1029   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gyorgy Sviridov
Conductor:  Elena Rastvorova
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow New Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SVIRIDOV 3 Choruses on Tolstoy’s “Tsar Feodor Ioannovich.” Pushkin’s Garland. 1 Songs of Troubled Times. Night Clouds 2 Elena Rastvorova, cond; Tamara Ursi (sop); Yana Besiadynaskaya (sop); Elena Youdenkova (mez); Vladimir Gubsky (bs); Mikhail Adamovich (pn); 1,2 Elena Adamovich (cel); 1,2 Ilona Mirnaya (hp); 1,2 Moscow New Ch Read more class="BULLET12b">• ALTO 1029 (67:54 Text and Translation)

Georgy Sviridov (1915–1998) studied with Shostakovich, who openly praised his student’s ability to set verses to music in a most accessible and beguiling manner. Sviridov was also the composer of a film score for a 1960s movie titled Vremya Vpered (I’m transliterating here, I hope not too badly), which translates as “Time Forward.” A snippet of that score became the theme music for the Soviet evening news, making its creator the most publicly exposed of all serious Russian composers for many years.

Here Sviridov focuses on the vast Russian tradition of choral music, much of which lies in the liturgical realm—a place roundly discouraged during the Soviet era. Tchaikovsky sued the churchly powers of his time in order to use their exclusively held melodies and harmonies in modern composition. He won, and among his beneficiaries were Rachmaninoff, and the far lesser known but nonetheless splendid Alexander Kastalsky (1856–1926), Alexander Grechaninov (1864–1956), and to a great extent, Georgy Sviridov. Though only the Three Choruses on “Tsar Feodor Ioannovich ”—incidental music which Sviridov composed between 1969 and 1972 for a production of a five-act tragedy by Alexei Tolstoy dealing with the story of Boris Godunov—falls into that category, that traditionally Russian liturgical sound inhabits, to a greater or lesser extent, everything else on this offering.

Some years ago I acquired a release (Olympic 520) that contained a fine recording of the Three Choruses by the Yurlov State Choir. Given its idiomatic rightness, it has long been my gold standard. That recording was made by Melodiya in 1992, and is, given the coughs and occasional rustling in the background, a live concert pickup. As such, it projects a compelling sense of a musical happening. This Alto release, recorded a year later by a similar Russian team, is a studio effort that offers a wider dynamic range, more detail, and far more vivid vocal color. The singing is equally idiomatic.

The remaining three pieces are even rarer on disc than the Three Choruses. Pushkin’s Garland , composed in 1979 and designated by Alto “Concerto for Chorus,” is a large-scale (over 30 minutes in length) work in which 10 highly contrasted poems of the Russian Shakespeare are masterfully set using a synergistic combination of traditional and modernistic harmonies, now and then a percussion ensemble with piano, and occasionally haunting offstage voices. It is a tour de force that truly deserves to be heard by the world at large.

The Songs of Troubled Times , also of 1980, is a setting of four poems by the Russian symbolist poet Alexander Blok. Here Sviridov becomes a minimalist employing the simplest and most direct of harmonic schemes and sonic textures. As in the best of vocal writing, here the words become totally subsumed into the music, and the music becomes totally subsumed into the words, blurring the demarcation between them.

Night Clouds , a choral cantata composed in 1979, also sets verses by Blok. This time they are far more despairing than before—an evocation, to me at any rate, of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 3:00 in the morning, which goes far beyond that example as only Russians, given their tumultuous history, can. The last song, titled “Puppet Show,” once again brings the percussion ensemble into the fray. The result is grotesque, and, given Sviridov’s language, a once again satisfying glimpse into the universal human condition.

The repertoire alone makes this release self-recommending. But then you get all that other good stuff.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

Choral Pieces (3) on Tolstoy's "Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich" by Gyorgy Sviridov
Conductor:  Elena Rastvorova
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow New Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; USSR 
Length: 9 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Concerto for Chorus "Pushkin's Garland" by Gyorgy Sviridov
Conductor:  Elena Rastvorova
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow New Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; USSR 
Length: 29 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Songs of Troubled Times by Gyorgy Sviridov
Conductor:  Elena Rastvorova
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow New Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; USSR 
Length: 12 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Night clouds by Gyorgy Sviridov
Conductor:  Elena Rastvorova
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moscow New Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; USSR 
Length: 14 Minutes 17 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 The Russian choirs are so good. March 3, 2014 By Jeremy M. (Victoria, BC) See All My Reviews "This CD is as good as I had hoped in that I find the Russian choirs so competent in their singing. They manage to express the feelings of the composer in the way in which they sing the various pieces on this CD. Don't ever tell a Welshman, but the Tenors are amazing in how they manage to interpret the high and low passages as well as the beautiful quieter parts of the composition, and when they are required to let rip, well...... Overall a CD that I would recommend to anyone who likes to listen to Russian music; definitely in the same league as the Novospassky Monastery Choir and their CD Russian Chant for Vespers." Report Abuse
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