Grechaninov: Music for Passion Week: a selection of hymns

COMPOSERS: Grechaninov
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Grechaninov
WORKS: Music for Passion Week: a selection of hymns
PERFORMER: Phoenix Bach Choir, Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy
Grechaninov’s Passion Week is a companion cycle to his better known All-night Vigil, and it is wonderful to hear it complete (bits sometimes crop up in anthologies here and there, but it’s scarcely known outside Russia). The superlatives have already piled up against Charles Bruffy’s name, and deservedly so. There can only be one reason for a label to release repertoire they already had in their catalogue, and that is that the new performance is so striking. The massed forces of the Phoenix Bach Choir and the Kansas City Chorale (both are professional groups) make a formidable choral machine, one which seems to produce an unending wave of smoothly blended sound. Furthermore, this music, which can sound static in the wrong hands, has an underlying flexibility of motion under Bruffy’s direction, particularly as it reaches the ecstatic Resurrection tableaux. There’s a symphonic sweep to the structure, inspired by the trajectory of the Passion narrative, and Bruffy is keenly aware of the necessity to pace the climaxes and the tempos. If Grechaninov’s music is sentimental in the best sense, this performance has an integrity and honesty to it which I find profoundly moving. William Whitehead