SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
RACHMANINOV: All-Night Vigil Op.37 (Vespers) – Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir – Paul Hillier; Harmonia mundi
Published on September 8, 2008
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) wrote the All-Night Vigil in one fortnight in 1915 during a period of great upheaval around the world and in Russia itself. The Vigil bows towards hundreds of years of Russian Orthodox Church music, and its rich harmonies in many parts are underpinned by bass singing so redolent of Russian choral music.
The work is unaccompanied, the vocal textures ringing out without an obfuscating orchestral contribution, and its moods are largely uplifting for the listener. The Russian Orthodox Church’s sung services are overtly passionate and this recording of Vespers and Matins brings this out most effectively. Ten of the settings are based on chant as required, the remainder Rachmaninov composed as he himself wished. As with many works, folk music plays an important part and makes the music even more accessible.
The women’s range doesn’t go above top A, the men’s all the way down to bottom B-flat; the richness produced by this range is wonderful, and set in the warm acoustic of an ecclesiastical building the result particularly in this high resolution DSD recording gives one the sense of being there. Arranged in four to eight parts, the music is in turns majestic, contemplative, hopeful, rejoicing and thankful. Listen out for the choir’s imitation of bells in track seven, the Six Psalms, and of trumpets in track nine. Special praise must be given to Vladimir Miller, the basso profundo, for his astonishing rumbling contribution in the depths of the choir.
The recording has appeared before, and is now reissued in digipak format. The booklet has an excellent essay by George Gelles, is printed on high quality paper with colour photographs, and has all the texts and translations. Recorded in the Dome Church, Haapsalu, Estonia, Rachmaninov’s music resounds magnificently with a grand sense of space, and shows what a fine job Harmonia mundi have done with this recording. Enthusiastically recommended.
1. Come, let us worship 2:51
2. Praise the Lord, O my soul 4:48
3. Blessed is the man 4:17
4. O gentle light 3:20
5. Lord, now lettest Thou 3:32
6. Rejoice, O Virgin 2:44
7. The Six Psalms 2:07
8. Praise the name of the Lord 2:19
9. Blessed art Thou, O Lord 5:36
10. Having beheld the Resurrection 2:35
11. My soul magnifies the Lord 6:59
12. The Great Doxology 6:41
13. Troparion: Today salvation is come 1:38
14. Troparion: Thou didst rise from the tomb 2:43
15. O queen victorious 1:39
— Peter Joelson