“[A]lthough the best-known Rachmaninov works are not uncharacteristic, they represent only one side of his musical personality. Some of his finest scores have nothing to do with the piano, or the orchestra, and ranking high among them are his two major religious pieces, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, and the Vespers[,] … the culmination of 100 years of effort by Russian composers to fuse liturgical and art music. Certainly they were not unexpected for Rachmaninov, because the tones of Russian religious choirs – dark, rich, sonorous – haunted his inner ear as much as the sound of piano.”
During the last decade of the Soviet era, the state’s arts directorate began to ease restrictions on the performance and recording of liturgical works.
As a result, Melodiya began to record major religious works by Russian composers – including a cappella choral works by Sergei Rachmaninov – for the first time.
These recordings brought two masterful choral conductors to international attention: Vladimin Minin and Valery Polyansky. Their art, and the virtuoso chamber choirs they Brough to the zenith of Russian choral art, is showcased in this Alto release that couples Rachmaninov’s “Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom” and choral hymns by twentieth century Russian church composers drawing on the grand romantic tradition.