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.