CD BAM 2018
notes | soloists | mp3 sample


the belair collection

Russian Orthodox church singing occupies a special place in old Russia’s vast and varied spiritual heritage. The early Russian culture of church singing was known as “the culture of great silence” probably because it was denied for a long time.  Even so, treasures of sacred music were created for centuries, in many variations from ascetic one-part melodies to splendid polyphony. With the exception of the works of Dmitry Bortnyansky, the majority of the repertoire on this album focuses on sacred works by Russian composers of the 19-20thcentury. In the Moscow Conservatoire, Tchaikovsky’s composing and pedagogical activities were the leading light in the formation of what became known as the “Moscow School.” Tchaikovsky united fellow composers who shared similar views and, in due course, composers such as Taneyev, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Medtner, Grechaninov and Kalinnikov joined the “Moscow school”. Like Tchaikovsky, these composers were connected with the Synodal Choral Institute and knew sacred music well, writing chants, liturgical cycles, vespers and other choral works for concert performances.

The Soloists

Irina Arkhipova as Marina Mnishek in the Opera “Boris Godunov”
Watercolour by Sergey Fonvizin,1969


Irina Arkhipova has scores of admirers from all over the world. As the most celebrated Russian mezzo-soprano of her time, she has been one of the leading soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre for more than forty years. Her operatic arias and varied chamber programmes are legendary. She has sung over 40 different operatic roles and has recorded 22 operas, 12 oratorios and cantatas, and about 50 recitals and scenes from operas. Many of these recordings were awarded international prizes.  Ms. Arkhipova has appeared on the world’s major operatic and concert stages with many leading conductors and singers.Irina Arkhipova was president of both the Glinka National Competition and the Tchaikovsky International Competition for 30 years.   In addition, she has been a member of the jury of international competitions in Athens (Maria Callas), Barcelona (Francisco Vinas), Munich, Sofia, New York (Rosa Ponselle), Tokyo (Minon), Brussels (Queen Elizabeth), Bussetto (Voci Verdiane), Treviso (Mario del Monaco) and Cardiff (BBC). At present she is professor at the Moscow Conservatoire and many of her students have become prize-winners in international competitions and are performing in opera houses around the world. She is vice president of The Academy of the Creative Arts and president of both the International Union of Musicians and the Irina Arkhipova Foundation in Moscow.

(“Church Bells”)  The Russian sacred music ensemble, Blagovest, was established in 1988. Under the leadership of Galina Koltsova, the initial core of the group was formed from an existing church choir. Due to the high quality of its performances and uniqueness of repertoire, the ensemble has gained critical recognition both in Russia and abroad. The success of Blagovest undoubtedly emerged through the singers’ high standards of vocal professionalism and thorough knowledge of liturgical practice.

The Composers

Sergei Rachmaninov’s choral compositions, especially Canticles of Vespers, are undoubtedly an important contribution to the Russian church musical literature. In Rachmaninov’s arrangements, his loving and delicate attitude to old church tunes is especially valuable. In “Bless The Lord, O My Soul” (both op.31 and op.37), the basic melody is sung by the soloist, Irina Arkhipova, and supported by the chamber choir. In this composition, the composer’s deep understanding of the hymn’s lyrics is evident. The whole musical picture here is portrayed by means of common Greek chant telling us in the words of a psalm about creation of the world. Khram Khrista Spasitelia (Christ Saviour Cathedral) Moscow

Dmitri Bortnyansky was born in Ukraine and began his musical education at the St. Petersburg Court Choir.  Later he studied composition under the Italian musician, Galuppi, and spent several years in Italy where he wrote his first operas and sacred choral works. Back in Russia he became the head of the Court Choir and devoted most of his musical activity to sacred choral music. The creator of about one hundred a capella choral  concertos, Bortnyansky set a unique musical trend in Europe. His concertos impress listeners today with their classical proportions, emotionality and clearness of musical language. Towards the end of the 19thcentury, when the music publishing company of P.Jorgensen prepared new publications of Bortnyansky’s concertos, Tchaikovsky was asked to be the musical editor and as a result, today we have these unique works in the original.

Pavel Chesnokov is one of the most outstanding choral music composers of this generation. He studied at the Moscow Synodal Institute under Alexander Katalsky and Sergei Taneyev. Later he studied composition and orchestral conducting under Ippolitov-Ivanov at the Moscow Conservatoire. From 1895 he taught at the Moscow Synodal Institute and was a presenter of choral ensembles. He became a professor at the Moscow Conservatoire and produced an immense amount of both religious and choral music. He wrote more than 500 choral works, as well as music for lyrics of Russian poets and arrangements of Russian songs.

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was one of the members of the “Mighty Handful”, a group of five young composers including Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Balakirev and Cesar Cui that managed to redirect the entire course of Russian music. Mussorgsky was known as the artist, thinker and innovator influencing greatly the other members with his ideas and he was a master of vocal music. He tried to unite thoughts, words and musical intonations. He expressed sympathy with the ordinary people and showed it in his various works, including his masterpieces “Boris Godunov” and “Khovanshchina.”

Alexander Grechaninov began his studies at the Moscow Conservatoire under Arensky and Taneyev and later continued his studies at the conservatoire in St. Petersburg under Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1896 he returned to Moscow where he became acquainted with S. Smolensky, the head of the Synodal Choir and Synodal Institute. As a result, he started to write sacred music and tried to bring elements of modern symphonic and operatic features into his compositions. He wrote the opera, Dobrynya Nikitich, based on Russian epic songs and performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1903. From 1925 Grechaninov lived in Paris and New York.



Irina Arkhipova, Soloist
The USSR Chamber Choir, Valeri Polyansky, Conductor

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
1. Bless the Lord, O my Soul, op.31 no. 2
Georgy Izvekov
(unknown - 1930)
2. Assuage diseases                                                                               
Pavel Chesnokov
3. Let my prayer be set forth before Thee
4. The eternal council, op.40 no.2 
Alexander Arkhangelsky (1846-1924)
5. Praise ye the name of the Lord 
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
6. Bless the Lord, O my Soul, op.37 no.2
Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751-1825)
7. Concerto for Choir XXXII,
Lord make me to know mine end...







Sacred Music Ensemble
Galina Koltsova ,Conductor

Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751-1825)
 8. Faster Concerto, Let the Lord resurrect

Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944)
 9. Cherubical Hymn (Sofronian Chant)
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
10. The Angel cried

Alexander Grechaninov (1864-1956)
11. Cherubical Hymn
Alexander Arkhangelsky (1846-1924)
12. Hear my prayer, O Lord

Total Time 68:40







download digital quality MPEG3 sound sample
Free MP3 sample from track no. 2 by Georgy Izvekov

DDD Digital Recording. Smolensk Cathedral, Moscow & St Sophia Cathedral, Polotsk, 1990.
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