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Sveshnikov's Rachmaninov Vespers
Sveshnikov's recording of the Rachmaninov Vespers, is, to my ears, the ideal version. This is the opposite of the scrupulous if somewhat bland versions by UK choirs of this piece. It sounds much more immediate here than on CD.
Great music in great quality
One of my favorite pieces of music. The recording is excellent and beautifully the performance of this work.
A recording no lover of choral music should be without
Although written in 1915 in support of the Russian War effort, Rachmaninov’s immediately well-received All Night Vigil (literally speaking, the word Vespers only applies to the first six movements of the fifteen) was soon to be suppressed as a work of religious nature under the communist regime from the Revolution of 1917 onwards. Such a ban would later include the making of recordings of religious music, at least for immediate public consumption. 1965. Enter Alexander Sveshnikov with the State Academic Choir of the USSR - still under the same ban - and the making of the first recording of the Vigil for the state record label Melodiya, but officially for the foreign export market and/or private study only. And what a recording. Regardless of some rough edges in actual sound, many still agree that this recording as a performance has rarely been bettered, achieving almost legendary status amongst choral record collectors. Particular strong points in the performance include first rate choral soloist contributions (as opposed to the now common practice of importing starry soloists on many recordings). Klara Korken in Praise the Lord, O my soul sings with exactly the right combination of weight and clarity at a naturally placed distance from the microphone and in both the Nunc Dimittis and Blessed be the Lord Konstantin Ognevoi delights with his truly authentic Russian tenor. Those who revel in listening to Russian oktavists - those extremely low basses all fans of choral music love - will not be disappointed either. The opposite, in fact. The contribution of these bassi profundi can be heard clearly at several points, most notably at the close of the Nunc Dimittis, where they descend to a low B-flat (the third B-flat below middle-C) doing so with unparalleled apparent ease and yet with full weight of tone. The technically excellent choir in general sing with great authority. This is indeed their music. All sections surpass themselves in the Magnificat, for example, and rarely has there been so much spirit conveyed in the closing To the Mother of God. Alexander Sveshnikov was arguably Russia’s greatest choral conductor, always working to the most exacting standards. Melodiya’s own notes claim that the present recording took almost a year to make across numerous sessions. Therein lies a very slight drawback however. While the performance as a whole remains outstanding, relatively rudimentary recording techniques available behind the Iron Curtain at the time appear to have failed to join the movements together with ambient sound to the degree that even many recordings of other music in the West managed to achieve at the time. In the present transfer, the ends of movements are faded out beautifully, but the opening of subsequent movements are not quite so smooth (headphone listening reveals this I found), something also evident on vinyl Lp versions of the recording and even Melodiya’s otherwise smoother sounding CD version, currently unavailable. Never mind. This is not seriously distracting and after all, this accurately presents what the open reel tape used here must have sounded like on state of the art equipment, given a little wear and tear in the intervening period (evident during some of the louder moments), at the time it was released. There are dozens of recordings of this work. Many, including those not only by Russian forces, are excellent; several offer a much smoother ride than here. But this remains a recording no lover of choral music should be without, even if they have other versions already. Very highly recommended in general. Unmissable for those who relish the nostalgia of open reel tape sound and enjoy exploring the textures associated with 1960’s hi-fi.
This is a beautiful recording and a lovely performance.
Title: Rachmaninov - Vespers (All-Night Vigil)
Artist(s): Director - Alexander Sveshnikov
Choir - The U.S.S.R. Russian Chorus
Mezzo-soprano Vocals – Clara Korkan
Tenor Vocals - Constantin Ognevoi
Recording Info: Transferred from a 2-track tape 15ips
Recorded by Meloydia 1965
Producer, Engineer – Alexander Grosman
1 O Come, Let Us Worship 2:27
2 Bless The Lord, Oh My Soul (Greek Chant) 5:43
3 Blessed Is The Man 5:42
4 Gladsome Radiance (Kiev Chant) 3:38
5 Nunc Dimittis (Kiev Chant) 4:24
6 Ave Maria 3:04
7 Glory Be To God On High (Znamenny Chant) 3:16
8 Praise Ye The Name Of The Lord (Znamenny Chant) 3:45
9 Blessed Art Thou, Oh Lord (Znamenny Chant) 7:10
10 The Veneration Of The Cross 3:18
11 Magnificat 7:57
12 Gloria In Excelsis (Znamenny Chant) 8:18
13 Today Hath Salvation Come (Znamenny Chant) 1:38
14 When Thou, O Lord, Hast Arisen (Znamenny Chant) 3:14
15 Hymn To The Mother Of GOd (Greek Chant) 1:43