Vladimir Gorbik / PaTRAM Institute Male Choir

Teach Me Thy Statutes

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The tradition of original polyphonic composition in the Russian Orthodox Church has been only intermittently apparent to the wider world. Its high point came in the years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, and it is from those years that these works by Pavel Chesnokov come (no exact dates are given, but Chesnokov, under political pressure, stopped writing sacred music after the Revolution). The selections come from the All-Night Vigil, Op. 44 (also known as the Vesper Mass), and the Vespers portion of Works and Arrangements, Op. 9, two of the composer's last sacred works; conductor Vladimir Gorbik, in his useful notes, states that since a primary audience for the album will be listeners in the U.S., he decided to divorce the program from liturgical requirements. It's a reasonable choice, since the reverential nature of the performances comes through in force. Some of the texts (you can sample "Blessed Art Thou, O Lord") were set by Rachmaninov in his slightly later All-Night Vigil, and comparing those could be a way to get a handle on Chesnokov's style, which makes only sparing use of ponderous basso profundo sounds but involves denser polyphony. The most distinctive feature of the album is that it involves a collaboration among three different male choirs; although the graphics (at least in the U.S. release) bill it as a performance by the PaTRAM Institute Male Choir (the PaTRAM Institute is the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute), there are also singers from two Russian choirs, in Moscow and Saratov, and Gorbik himself is Russian. Those familiar with this tradition of singing will enjoy picking out the various influences, but any listener will find the sound richly textured. This release, recorded in Russia in 2016, was nominated for the 2018 Grammy award for Best Choral Performance. Reference Recordings deserves special note for splendid engineering in music that easily turns to sonic mush.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
All Night Vigil, Op. 9
1 3:07
Vesper Mass, Op. 44
2 5:02
All Night Vigil, Op. 9
3 2:46
4 3:26
5 3:01
Vesper Mass, Op. 44
6 7:50
7 2:56
8 0:57
9 9:09
10 3:17
All Night Vigil, Op. 9
11 2:31
12 8:21
All Night Vigil, Op. 9
13 7:13
14 3:23
15 4:17
blue highlight denotes track pick