Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Pushkin’s Garland; Tsar Feodor Ioannovich – Three Choruses; Songs of Troubled Times; Night Clouds
PERFORMER: Moscow New Choir/Elena Rastvorova; Percussion Group/Maxim Mankovsky
CATALOGUE NO: ALC 1029 Reissue (1994)


Though Georgy Sviridov was a pupil of Shostakovich’s, it would be hard to imagine a style more contrary to his teacher’s. This excellent programme of (mostly) a cappella choral music evokes the pre-Revolutionary Orthodox style of Rachmaninov’s Vespers and of Grechaninov. Western listeners may also hear an affinity with Poulenc’s religious or quasi-religious choral music such as Figure humaine, or even Carl Orff in the dramatic use of chiming percussion mid-way through Pushkin’s Garland and in the final, disturbing drama presented in Night Clouds. The chamber-sized Moscow New Choir lends greater intimacy to the Three Choruses and Songs of Troubled Times than does even the Holst Singers (on Hyperion CDA 66928). Its ensemble and tuning, generally more precise than any other Russian group in this repertoire, works particularly well in the two Blok cycles: Songs of Troubled Times (the soprano soloist preferable to the rather mannered countertenor of James Bowman for the Holst Singers) and Night Clouds. However in the other works I missed the dramatic contrasts presented by larger choirs, such as the formidable State Capella of St Petersburg in the Three Choruses (on Manchester Files), or in the same work the combined choral forces under the direction of Vladimir Minin, also responsible for a classic account of Pushkin’s Garland; while that latter performance may occasionally seem plodding against the Moscow’s more flowing style (for instance, ‘A Ring for my Sweetheart’), the interpretation is both more atmospheric and expressive. However the Moscow choir offers fine performances throughout, outstandingly so in the Blok cycles. Daniel Jaffé