Alto, a "label of Musical Concepts" with headquarters in suburban New York City, continues to unearth and reissue intriguing musical treasures from the catalogs of various small labels around the world. The music on the present disc was recorded in Moscow in 1994 and composed between 1969 and 1980. Georgy Sviridov, like Khachaturian, was one of the Soviet Union's approved composers, active in the last decades of the country's existence. He has been little heard in the West, but he was a favorite of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, the man who crushed the Prague Spring. By this time, Socialist Realism had begun to seem a caricature of itself, but the use of tonality was still a path to official favor. The four pieces here, for chorus a cappella except for an incidental use of percussion, all draw on Russian traditions without falling into schmaltz, and the music is a nice find for the most part. The Three Choruses from Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, drawn from the incidental music for a play based on the Boris Godunov story, make use of textures clearly derived from, although never simply imitating, Russian Orthodox church music. The other works set texts by poets familiar to Russians, Alexander Pushkin, from the early nineteenth century, and Aleksandr Blok, from the twentieth. Sample "Reveille is Sounded" (track 10), from Pushkin's Garland, for an idea of Sviridov's ability to revivify a traditional idea; there are many Russian compositions about bells, but the way they weave in and out of an individual's thoughts in this one is unique. The rich yet precise sound of the Moscow New Choir under Elena Rastvorova, not a traditional Russian religious style but certainly influenced by that realm, will be for many listeners reason enough to give this release a try; it would make an interesting counterpoint for a collection devoted to contemporary American and British choral singing. Texts are in English only, with no Russian originals for the poetry.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Choral Pieces (3) on Tolstoy's "Tsar Fyodor Ioanovich"|
|Concerto for chorus ("Pushkin's Garland")|
|Songs of Troubled Times, for chorus|
|Night Clouds, choral cantata|