METROPOLITAN HILARION ALFEYEV (b.1966): Christmas Oratorio for Soloists, Boys’ Choir, Mixed Choir and Orchestra, A Song of Ascents for Choir and Orchestra, Stabat Mater for Soprano, Choir and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 10S085
Reference: MEL CD 10 02419
Description: The major discographic gain here - and it is a major one - is the magnificent Christmas Oratorio, as impressive a work as Alfeyev's renowned St Matthew Passion (07R071). The composer reveres Bach, and it is to the Baroque that he most consistently turns for inspiration, but the chant of the Orthodox church and its choral traditions also make memorable appearances in the recitative movements. Alfeyev has strong, thoroughly expert views on music history (as he does on theological matters), and of developments in more recent music he finds himself in sympathy with Shostakovich and to some extend the 'new spirituality' composers, and traces of both are detectable in his orchestral textures and harmony - the former, for instance, in the tenebrous opening depicting humankind's anxious anticipation of salvation. The texts are drawn from the Gospels and the liturgy of the Orthodox church in a dramatic arc from darkness to the light of salvation and exultant praise. Polyphony and masterful counterpoint are central to the neo-baroque sections, and contribute to some of the work's grandest choral passages and its orchestral interludes, while the chant-based passages lend the piece a profound liturgical solemnity. The powerful Stabat Mater, with its persistent passacaglia, fugal and perpetuum mobile motion and plangent lyricism spans the centuries between the Baroque and post-minimal insistence. The five-movement choral symphony, setting texts from the Psalms, also charts a progression from darkness to light, 'Out of the Depths' to exultant hymns of praise in music of monumental grandeur. It is the same work that we offered in 2015 (04Q086), except that that version was called 'De profundis' and was sung in Latin, while this rather more monumental performance is in Russian. 2 CDs. No texts. Hibla Gerzmava (soprano), Nikolai Didenko (bass), Protodeacon Viktor Shilovsky (baritone), Choir of the Popov Academy of Choral Art, Boys’ Choir of the Moscow Sveshnikov Choral College, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia; Vladimir Spivakov.