Tchaikovsky: Liturgy of St John Chrysostom

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Liturgy of St John Chrysostom
PERFORMER: National Choir of Ukraine ‘Dumka’/Yevhen Savchuk
Daring as Tchaikovsky may have been in trying to break the Imperial Chapel’s monopoly on the Orthodox service in his own setting of the Liturgy, he was still bound to a self-effacement in the service of the ritual which comes close to total anonymity. Do we need to hear all the ‘lord have mercies’, provided some 70 times if all the repeats are observed? The ‘Dumka’ Choir by no means offers them all, but there are still too many – and they are especially pointless without the invocations of the deacon usually included. Coming to the first real ‘composition six tracks in to the disc, the ‘Cherubic Hymn, one forgives earlier washes of flat intonation when the choir floats the quieter music with such dedication, and in such warm Kiev Cathedral acoustics (Kiev, incidentally, was the first home to Tchaikovsky’s setting while legal wrangles raged in St Petersburg).


The tone is somewhere between the operatic full-throatedness of the legendary Glinka Choir (sadly not currently available) and the English precision of the Corydon Singers on Hyperion; unfortunately the Dumka’s gentle strain of religious feeling stretches neither to the Glinka’s great blazes nor to the Corydons’ perfect pitching. Worthy, but inevitably rather dull – as anyone who already knows Rachmaninoff’s Orthodox settings and expects to find a distinguished forebear will discover. David Nice