Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rachmaninov’s All-night Vigil - sometimes erroneously referred to as his Vespers – is in fact a hybrid of three Russian Orthodox services; Vespers (movements 1 to 6), Matins (7 to 14) and First Hour (15). There have been a number of well-regarded recordings of the piece in recent years, two of which spring to mind: the first is from Sigvards Klava and the Latvian Radio Choir, the second from Paul Hillier and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Those are fine Baltic ensembles, expertly led, and their collections are always worth your time and money. Besides, they tend to get top-notch recordings, too.
The Netherlands Radio Choir, founded after the Second World War, is a 68-strong group with a number of world premières to their name. That makes them a good fit with Kaspars Putni?š, chief conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, who is a tireless promoter of contemporary choral works. That said, his repertoire is wide-ranging, so Rachmaninov is well within his artistic purview. Incidentally, this recording includes a filler, The Theotokos, Ever-Vigilant in Prayer, which Rachmaninov composed in 1893. A precursor to the Vigil in style it burns with a quick, fierce flame. An intriguing little bonus.
First impressions of Putninš’ Vigil are entirely positive. The bass and tenor soloists – Gert-Jan Alders and Matthew Minter respectively – are ideally spaced at the start of O come let us worship, and the choir’s response is both refined and radiant. The alto Pierrette de Zwaan – who appears in Praise the Lord, O my soul – is just as ravishing, the choral cadences gentle but telling. Goodness, this is singing of the highest order; weight and blend are well nigh perfect, as is the open, airy sound. This may be a studio recording, but there’s breadth and depth aplenty, with no obscuring echoes. Indeed, the ‘goose-bump quotient’ is very high, even at this early stage.
Minor caveats aside, this is a splendid account of Rachmaninov's masterpiece. The Dutch bring emotional intensity to the Vigil; you must hear it.
– MusicWeb International (Dan Morgan)