ALBUM TITLE: The Bells of Dawn
WORKS: Russian sacred and folk songs
PERFORMER: Varlamov, Sviridov, Shashina Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone); The Grand Choir ‘Masters of Choral Singing’/Lev Kontorovich
Dmitri Hvorostovsky has recorded several albums of Russian folk-song, but this latest is more unusual, featuring 19th-century religious songs in the Orthodox a capella style, with priestly solos echoed by the choir. This richly beautiful music, little known in the West, suits Hvorostovsky’s bass-baritone to a T, its dark creamy texture and plush legato still well preserved, and he delivers the solos with an appropriately un-operatic authority and intensity of feeling. In the choral sections The Grand Choir is as clean-cut and precise as a distinguished choir should be.
Burmagin’s The Wise Thief is especially impressive, likewise the exultant Symbol of Faith by Arkhangelsky, who first introduced female voices into choral works in Russia, and the four pieces by Pavel Chesnokov. He and others were often influenced by folk and popular melodies, while those in turn often mirrored religious music. Some of them are also included, and although inevitably slightly stilted by the classical approach, they’re still effective. A snowstorm sweeps the street, by Alexander Varlamov, is particularly attractive, a hesitant lover contemplating a beautiful girl, as is the atmospheric title track by the celebrated Soviet-era composer Georgy Sviridov.
Hvorostovsky’s fans won’t need the recommendation, but the music itself is also well worth discovering. Michael Scott Rohan