Grechaninov: Symphony No. 2 (Pastoral); Mass ‘Et in terra pax’

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COMPOSERS: Grechaninov
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Pastoral); Mass ‘Et in terra pax’
PERFORMER: Anatoly Obraztsov (bass),Ludmila Golub (organ)Russian State Symphonic Cappella, Russian State SO/Valéry Polyansky
Polyansky’s first Grechaninov disc for Chandos was quite a hit: a beautifully sung account of the epic unaccompanied choral work The Seven Days of Passion. That work bore a strong resemblance to the sophisticated Russian Orthodox world of Rachmaninov’s famous Vespers, whereas the setting of the Latin Mass on this new disc – written during World War II, hence the subtitle ‘Et in terra pax’ – is for chorus with organ and is thus a concert rather than a liturgical work (instruments are banned from Orthodox services). There are some fine moments, such as the Credo in which a bass soloist is accompanied by atmospheric, shifting clouds of choral sound. But compared with the best of Grechaninov’s vocal music this is tame, traditional stuff. The Pastoral Symphony (1911) is even more disappointing. It’s partly that his compatriots – Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, not to mention Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov – could put this sort of tuneful symphony together so much better than he could; there’s also a real poverty about the material, which is melodically far too shapeless to sustain a 38-minute symphony. Performances and recording are adequate, little more. Stephen Maddock