Saturday, March 10, 2012

Some gorgeous unaccompanied choral works

Alexander Gretchaninov (1864-1956) has always been one of my favorite choral composers, especially his works in the Russian Orthodox tradition.  I love the dense harmonies and especially the way this tradition uses those low bass voices.  When my local group, the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus, did Rachmaninoff's All-night vigil in the spring of 2011, it reminded me how much I love this kind of music. We will be doing some more a capella modern liturgical music in our upcoming concert, including Gorecki's Totus tuus, that has many of these qualities.

Here are some YouTubes of Gretchaninov works that gratified my search for good performances.
  • Svete Tihiy (O gladsome light). This April 11, 2011 performance by the Central Washington University Chamber Choir in Ellensburg gave me goosebumps. Their faces reflect the ecstasy I feel listening to them. See how their bodies sway so slightly, leaning into the notes.
  • Nunc dimittis (Time to hit the road).  Holland Chorale, Hope College, Holland, MI. A larger, older choir with a beautifully balanced sound.
  • Vespers. No information about this version, but it is apparently a study compilation that also shows you the sheet music (hope you can read Slavonic).  The first piece shows off that great Russian basso sound.
  • The cherubic hymn by the Wicker Park Choral Singers of Chicago. Sweet sound, nice balance, solid bass line. Nice-looking room they're in, too.
Our recording of the Rachmaninoff Vespers should be available shortly.  Until then, our CD of our October 2011 Mozart Requiem is already available. I think it came out rather well, for one show—live without a net, as our director Roger Melone calls it.

Meanwhile, check out the State Russian Choir's version of Blagoslovi Dushe Moya Gospoda (Bless the Lord, O my soul).

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