Conspirare / Craig Hella Johnson

The Sacred Spirit of Russia

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Conspirare's 2014 release on Harmonia Mundi is a collection of sacred choral music in the Russian Orthodox tradition, drawn primarily from works by Sergey Rachmaninov, Alexander Kastalsky, and Alexander Gretchaninov, but including selections by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Vladimir Martynov, and Pavel Tchesnokov, among other composers. All of these pieces reflect the "New Russian Choral School," the practice of liturgical music developed by the 19th century, which bore the influences of Polish, Italian, and German choral music of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras, mixed with Slavic polyphony and the older Byzantine, Znamenny, and Demestvenny chants. The monumental harmonies of this music are chanted a cappella, and the richness of the textures is reinforced by the low notes of the basses, which give the sound a deep resonance and special warmth. Examples are given from the Matins service, the Liturgy of the Word, and the "sacred concertos" performed at Communion, so the different purposes for these chants are made clear, though listeners may find the intense expressions of reverence and joy to be most immediate. This 40-voice chamber choir was vibrantly recorded in St. Martin's Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas, and the responsive acoustics give the ensemble a glorious luster appropriate to the music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 7:37
Liturgy, Op. 37
2 2:39
Liturgy No. 2, Op. 29
3 2:34
4 5:15
5 1:47
6 1:23
7 1:53
8 2:14
9 4:34
Liturgy No. 2, Op. 29
10 4:29
11 7:43
12 2:28
Liturgy No. 2, Op. 29
13 4:42
14 2:06
15 3:56
16 3:03
Passion Week, Op. 58
17 5:07
18 4:48
Liturgy Op. 31
19 4:31
20 0:46
Liturgy, Op. 79
21 1:04
22 2:57
blue highlight denotes track pick