This is a beautiful selection of Sviridov’s choral music.
Georgy Sviridov’s Canticles and Prayers is considered by many as one of the most important works in Russian sacred music. In this new recording the Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Klava offers impressive renditions of music from this collection by the Russian master. Sviridov, a pupil of Shostakovich, began writing religious works in 1969. Since then these works have come to form an important part of his oeuvre. In the 1980s Sviridov had several projects to write a liturgy or a mass. In the end, the sketches of his sacred music came to form a cycle titled Canticles and Prayers. The work was created at a turning point in the history of Russia, the perestroika years that ended in the collapse of the Soviet state. The composer was keenly affected by the events of those years, building a monument to his era. The main body of Canticles and Prayers was assembled between 1988 and 1992. In September 1997, Sviridov selected the versions he thought best, approving the final order for the first three parts and making the final edits to the score. This work remained incomplete at the time of his death in 1998. Canticles and Prayers was thus Sviridov’s last work. The recording also includes the chorus The Red Easter based on a cycle of Easter hymns. Previous releases of the Latvian Radio Choir on Ondine have been highly successful. For instance, the recording of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil was chosen as the Record of the Month, Editor’s Choice and received a nomination in the Gramophone Awards in 2013. Also, their more recent releases of choral works by Valentin Silvestrov and Eriks Esenvalds received Gramophone Editor’s Choice.
This is a beautiful selection of Sviridov’s choral music. There is a subtlety to phrasing of the Latvian Radio Choir’s performance of the Trisagion (track 2, ‘Holy God’), for example, that often eludes Russian and Ukrainian choirs. And this serves them well too in the remarkable Having beheld a strange nativity, especially in the last movement, with its ‘increasing’ alleluias, and their mastery of dynamics means that they can bring it down to the quietest of pianissimos in nanoseconds.
The cycle on texts from the Old Testament is less familiar but has similarly outstanding moments—the second, ‘Sprinkle me with hyssop’, is particularly memorable in its alternation of male and female and choral groups—and in fact strikes me as one of the most likely works on this disc to enter the repertoire of Western choral ensembles. ‘Taynaya vechera’ might also do so, but here I come to my most serious reservation regarding this disc, which has nothing to do with the wonderful performances but everything to do with the disastrous translations in the booklet.
Do acquire this disc, listen to the frequently wonderful music and the consistently astounding performances but recycle the booklet.