With about a dozen albums to its credit, the French a cappella vocal ensemble Accentus broadens the range of its recorded repertoire with this disc of selections from Rachmaninov's Vespers and Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The group is joined by the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and led by founder Laurence Equilbey. The liturgy was recorded in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the premiere of the work in 1910. Under Equilbey's disciplined direction, the groups perform with pure tone, impeccable intonation, and a warm, full blend. The Rachmaninov pieces don't make the same kinds of virtuosic demands on choirs as the outrageously difficult arrangements of instrumental pieces on Accentus' two Transcription albums (the first of which won a Grammy) but they require a focus and attention to long, shapely lines that the singers fully deliver. Equilbey provides rhythmic flexibility and a strong feeling of momentum, so the music never bogs down under its weightiness. If there is any criticism of the performances it is that the group doesn't have the gravity in the lower voices that is usually associated with these pieces. The basses are very fine, and soloist Vladimir Miller is fully satisfying, but the performances don't have the booming Russian bass sound that audiences may expect. For those looking for elegant but impassioned versions of this music, the recording makes a good choice. Listeners should be aware that this is an album of excerpts, and it includes only about a third of the Liturgy and about two thirds of the Vespers. Naïve's sound is clean, but spacious and warm, an ideal acoustic that allows both the grandeur and the details of this music to come across.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 31|
|Vespers, Op. 37|