- Vespers (All-Night Vigil), for alto, tenor, & chorus, Op. 37
The leading American choral conductor for more than half a century, Robert Shaw's ability to create a blended, powerful sound from almost any group of professional (or amatuer) singers is legendary. Here, with a hand-picked ensemble, he turns to one of the most beautiful works in the Russian choral literature: Rachmaninoff's Vespers. The dark, stark splendor of this unaccompanied sacred music may surprise those who know only the composer's virtuoso piano concertos; but even in this context, one can tell that the bittersweet harmonies couldn't have been created by anyone else. Based on the ancient chants of the Russian Orthodox Church, which traditionally feature deep, Slavic bass voices, these Vespers have a sonority that's unforgettable, resonant, and profound -- especially as captured by Telarc's spectacular recording.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is hands-down the most incredible recording of this piece that I've found. Spectacular vocal performances, great direction, and Telarc's amazing recording techniques combine to make this a wonderful album. And, of course, Rachmaninoff's brilliant compositional skills need no mention.
Rachmaninoff's Vespers has recceived many recordings over the years, but this new Telarc CD with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers is one of the best to date. The work was composed to accompany the all-night vesper service in the Russian Orthodox Church and as such is sung a capella (unaccompanied). Composed in several short but continuous movements and taking over an hour on average to perform as the present account does, it is a complex and challenging work for any chorus both technically and interpreti- vely. But Shaw's chorus, comprised of vocal students based at an annual workshop in the French countryside, are more than up to the demands that the Vespers present. On the technical level, their intonation and blend are faultless and their Russian is about as good as it can be (at least to this non-Russian's ears). As a performance, Shaw and com- pany keep the large work flowing without once letting it sag. I also favor their lean tone with minimal vibrato to the heavy, wobbly sound that many of the other performances contain. The leaner tone adds to the austerity and beauty of the Vespers without minimizing the impact of it at all. The Rachmaninoff Vespers are admittedly not to everyone's taste due to its solemn nature but I urge you give this recording a try. It is about as persuasive an account of this beautiful, rarely performed gem as you will get, and offers another side to Rachmaninoff besides his instru- mental and orchestral music that one does not usually hear. The record- ing quality is superb, (done in a small Gothic church as per the liner notes) with just enough reverb and ambient acoustic to augment the work's lovely harmonies. As said above, a gem. Try it.