Rachmaninov: All Night Vigil

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: All Night Vigil
WORKS: All Night Vigil
PERFORMER: Tenebrae, Nigel Short
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 054
Rachmaninov Vespers recordings are

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like London buses; you get none for a

while, and then a whole clutch appears

one after another – which is why this

Vespers review follows hard on the

heels of my last one, just three months

ago. The latest version is very fine,

too. Listening to it alongside all the

other versions was a very disconcerting

experience, because all the recordings

seemed to have shifted somewhat, as

if the arrival of this newcomer had

caused some sort of seismic shock.

The Finnish National Opera Chorus

(Naxos) appeared even more Slavic

and King’s College Choir (EMI)

even more restrained and English.

One thing, though, hadn’t shifted

at all, which was my perception that

my previous winner, the version

from the National Academic Choir

of Ukraine under Yevhen Savchuck,

still stood out from the crowd. So

this was a two-horse race, between

that version and this new one.

The virtue of Tenebrae’s recording

is its combination of finesse and

emotional power. The acoustic

is perfect, being simultaneously

pellucid and warmly resonant. The

clarity allows Rachminaninov’s

occasionally thick textures to resound

with total clarity, such as the tangle

of parts moving in contrary motion

in ‘Bogoroditse Devo’. And the

sound is more intense and sharply

characterised than some – the tenor

soloist, Paul Badley, wouldn’t sound

out of place in Kiev. The recording

is altogether excellent, and it’s only

that extra something in the Ukrainian

version – a heartfelt supplicatory

quality, especially in the ‘Nunc

dimittis’ – that for me keeps it ahead

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of the competition. Ivan Hewett