Review: Cappella Romana: Rakhmaninov Vigil

Review: Cappella Romana: Rachmaninov All Night Vigil. 

Of the times I have heard Cappella Romana do the Vigil, this was clearly the best balanced. The extra bass personnel made for a very enjoyable concert experience. Benedict Sheehan did a masterful job of piloting the choir through not just the Rachmaninov, but also several other pieces that provided a  context that gave the audience a taste of what was covered in a typical vigil. The intonation was wonderful. On Nynye Otpushchayesi the tenor solo was good if a bit nervous. The descending bass line at the end was helped by the services of Glenn Miller, the basso profundo who has become well associated with this work throughout the USA through his participation with many choirs. There was even a nice F1 at the end of Bogoroditse Dyevo. 

There was a tendency to not accent the strong syllable through much of the concert. This became most problematic with the singing of the small glorification (6 Psalms). If the choir accented SLA of “Slava” as much as Rachmaninov wrote for them to, it was lost in the acoustics of St. James Cathedral. The Bell effect that Rachmaninov composed was mostly limited to the sound of the various voices together creating the proper tones and overtones. 

On the Velichaniye (Magnificat) the sound of the men was very satisfyingly solid. The women had balance issues with the altos and 2nd sopranos overpowering the 1st sopranos. 

The Cappella Romana added many of the parts that would change from service to service to round out the concert and give a sense of context. They performed these hymns quite well.

It was overall a glorious concert with the voices accomplishing a feat of stamina and not sounding tired at the end. 

As an encore the Choir proformed Chesnokov’s Nye Otverzhi Menye with Glenn Miller singing the solo that he first premiered with the Illumni Men’s Chorale, singing the original ending the Chesnokov wrote.   Later, he won a Grammy with Conspirare with this piece. We were spoiled richly. 

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Review of The Sacred Spirit of Russia CD

Review of The Sacred Spirit of Russia CD, performed by Conspirare, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson

The organization of of the CD is marvelous, following the outline of the Divine Liturgy. The Troparion and Kontakion and festal Trisagion and Magnification are of Christmas. There is an extended “Concert” section (the special music that the choir sings during the communion of the major clergy) including a couple of Lenten selections “Nynye Sily” (Now the Powers of Heaven) and “Nye Otvyerzhi” (Do not abandon me)

The tempos on “Let our mouths be filled” by Rachmaninov and Kedrov’s “Our Father” were a bit on the slow side; both of these works need a more energetic tempo.

The pieces that stand out from the rest are the Ippolitov-Ivanov Bless the Lord O my soul, the Chesnokov Cherubic Hymn, the Kastalsky Mercy of Peace.

Nye Otvyerzhi was magnificent with Glenn Miller singing the solo. Chesnokov wrote this piece for a very good and low Octavist. He later rewrote the ending for those who can’t hit a low G1. The revised ending is what most basses (even Russian basses) sing today. Glenn has the ability to sing the original ending, being likely the first Octavist to perform the original ending in concerts in the USA, premiering it almost two years ago with the Illumni Men’s Chorale.

The tenor who did the cantillation seems to know how the individual words are pronounced but did not know how they work in a sentence. The Sopranos’ vibrato did not match the rest of the ensemble. This gave the feeling sometimes that they were not quite a part of the rest of the group. Intonation was excellent. On the whole, there could have been more attention paid to the consonants. The men and altos did wonderfully.

This is well worth the price of the CD just to get Glenn Miller singing Nye Otvyerzhi with the original ending. And as a bonus you get a very competent choir singing wonderful music.

On February 8, 2015 this album won a grammy

The CD is available through Musica Russica.

http://www.musicarussica.com/search/results?fulltext=Spirit+of+Russia