University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Rachmaninoff: Sacred Choral Music

05/05/2013 1:00 pm
05/05/2013 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera Host Keith Brown writes:

Due to the old, unreformed calendar to which Eastern Orthodox Christendom continues to adhere, Orthodox Easter falls on this Sunday.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) is known to the world at large as a piano virtuoso, but he also composed two classics of Russian Orthodox liturgical music for a capella chorus. The Vespers, Op. 37 (1915) I have broadcast many times at Eastertide over the past three decades, but Rachmaninoff's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 31 (1911) is unknown to the airwaves. The difference between these works is for the Liturgy, Rachmaninoff wrote his own folklike melodies; for his Vespers for Easter Eve he drew upon ancient Russian ecclesiastical chants.

The Austrian record label Capriccio has paired Opus 37 and 31 in a three-CD set, issued in 2009. The recording was made in 1994 in the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Georgi Robev directs the Bulgarian National Choir.