CD BAM 2028
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The Bolshoi Theatre Children's Choir
Singing the Music of Time

the belair collection

The Russian Choral Tradition. 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.” In the same manner that the Church “guided” the style of icon painting, it also demanded an anonymous and unvaried style in music, discouraging any attempt at individualism. For centuries the Church recognized only the ancient Byzantine tradition of melodies without harmony known as the znamennyi chant. In spite of this attitude, many variations of sacred music treasures were created for centuries, with some of the finest works written by the composer, Dmitry Bortnyansky.

The Russian folksong that emerged at the end of the 18th century and gained momentum in the 19th century was to have a lasting effect on choral tradition. In the 1870s, Tchaikovsky, who was deeply influenced by the Russian folksong, was the leading light in the revival of choral music through 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, Chesnokov, Arkhangelsky, Kastalsky and Kalinnikov joined the Moscow School. All genuinely inspired by the Russian folksong, these composers were connected with the Synodal Choral College-writing chants, liturgical cycles, vespers, and other choral works for concert performances.

The Bolshoi Theatre Children’s Choir.
The Children’s Choir of the Bolshoi Theatre celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2000. Originally, children’s parts performed at the Bolshoi Theatre were performed by student choristers from the best educational choir institution in Russia, the Synodal College. In the museum of the Bolshoi Theatre, one can find theatre programs from 1925, which show that a group of fifteen children participated in performances conducted by Alexandrov, a presenter at the Temple of Our Saviour, the main cathedral temple in Russia. As all the names of the children and their teachers were known, this gave reason to celebrate the choir’s 75th anniversary.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Bolshoi Theatre company was evacuated to Kuibyshev (the historical name of the city of Samara on the Volga) but without the Children’s Choir. In Samara, the Bolshoi Theatre performed only opera and ballet, but at the end of 1941, the necessity of creating a new children’s choir became apparent. The children of the artists constituted the cast of the new choir. In a very short time, under the guidance of a talented theatre employee, Dina Shelonina, the children learned to sing and perform professionally. Dina Shelonina continued as a choirs’ inspector until 1988. In 1945, shortly after the Bolshoi Theatre Company returned to Moscow, a committee headed by the leading conductors of the theatre listened to the Children’s Choir. It was decided to recommend to the Russian government at the time, that the most talented singers of the choir became employees at the theatre. This was the first and, for a long period, the only children’s ensemble in Russia that received remuneration for its work. In 1985, Andrey Zaboronok became leader of the choir. He thought that the limited opera repertoire the young singers performed at the theatre did not sufficiently develop their professional skills, so he prepared a concert repertoire. The first successful performance took place in May 1989 in St. Nikolay and Assumption of the St. Virgin Cathedral in Kosino, where the choir performed the mass of Alexander Kastalsky.

The skill of the Children’s Choir of the Bolshoi Theatre has been greatly praised abroad. The choir’s performance of La Boheme at La Scala Theatre was highly appreciated by Maestro Herbert von Karajan.  In 1985, at the Warsaw Opera Theatre, the orchestra’s musicians and the choir singers stopped performing and began to applaud the Children’s Choir after the first phrase. In 1989, during the tour of La Scala Theatre in Moscow, the Children’s Choir participated in the performance of the opera, Turandot by Puccini. The young singers won the hearts of Maestro Lorin Maazel, producer Franco Zeffirelli and many Italian soloists. The repertoire of the Children’s Choir comprises such operas as Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina by Mussorgsky, Snow Maiden and Mlada by Rimsky-Korsakov, Carmen by Bizet, Werther by Massenet, Masquerade by Verdi, Lohengrin by Wagner, and Tosca and La Boheme by Puccini. The choir also performs in ballets by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev and sings the works of Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Liadov, Palestrina, Pergolesi, J.S.Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Britten and Poulenc. In 1992, Boris Dergachev was appointed manager of the Bolshoi Theatre Children’s Choir and organized the choir’s first tour to Germany. Since 1994 the Children’s Choir has performed in Germany (1994), Italy, Japan, South Korea (1995) and Italy (1996/1997).


The Composers

Andrey Zaboronok, the conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre Children’s Choir, wrote the arrangement of the first track in this album-the traditional Russian folksong, Monotonously Jingles the Little Bell. 

Alexander Kastalsky
was a student of both Tchaikovsky and Taneyev as he studied at the Moscow Conservatoire. In 1910, he became director of the Synodal Choir where he focused mainly on the ancient Znamennyi Chant. In this album, In Thy Kingdom and Our Father are from his work, Liturgy of St. John of Chrysostom..
Christ Has Risen is from the Easter Cycle and Beautiful Easter is from a manuscript of 1598 discovered in the Supralsky  Monastry. The name Stikhira (a written line) is originally a Greek word.

Pavel Chesnokov is one of the most outstanding choral music composers of his generation. He studied under Alexander Katalsky and Sergei Taneyev at the Moscow Synodal College. He produced an immense amount of both religious and choral music, writing more than 500 choral works as well as music for lyrics of Russian poets and arrangements of Russian songs. In this album,
Come, Let Us Entreat Joseph is from the All Night Vigil, Op.9.No.9 and Let Us, Mystically Representing the Cherubim is from the Liturgy, Op.16.

Valery Sariyev, present-day Moscow composer, has written The Lord our God, Prayer of Macarius the Great as a modern liturgical work where the prayer is, first and foremost, intended to be performed in concert instead of the church.  This custom was first initiated by Bortnyansky’s spiritual concerti in the 1790s.

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.  The creator of about one hundred a capella choral concertos, Bortnyansky set a unique musical trend. He also wrote a number of single-movement works including Cherubimic Hymns of which Many Years has been included in this album.

Alexander Grechaninov
began his studies at the Moscow Conservatoire under Arensky and Taneyev and later continued at the conservatoire in St. Petersburg under Rimsky-Korsakov. Grechaninov wrote the opera, Dobrynya Nikitich, based on Russian epic songs and performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1903. He worked to bring elements of modern symphonic and operatic features into his compositions. Grechaninov is known for his church music and choral music for children. Included in this album is Lullaby from Songs for Children, Op.66.

Sergei Rachmaninov’s choral compositions are undoubtedly an important contribution to the Russian church musical literature. In his arrangements, a loving and delicate attitude to old church tunes is especially moving. Inspired by his students when he began his tenure at the Maryinski Women’s Institute in 1894, he composed Six Choruses for Women’s or Children’s Voices, Op.15. In this album we have included Night and The Angel from this work.

Anatoly Liadov was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov who was member of “The Mighty Handful” (“Moguchaya Kuchka”), a group of young nationalist composers including Balakirev (the leader), Cesar Cui, Borodin and Mussorgsky. Greatly influenced by the “The Five,” Liadov became best known for his piano and orchestral miniatures. In 1899 he produced the choral collection of Ten Russian Folksongs, Op.45 for female chorus. In this album included are
My Little River, Rock-a-bye and The Lord Ascended to Heaven.

Cesar Cui, though not a first-rate composer, considered himself joint-leader of “The Mighty Handful” and the group critic. Most of his compositions were of choral miniatures for mixed voices. He wrote more than 60 of such works and included in this album is the lovely choral miniature Everywhere Snow.

Piotr Tchaikovsky was the initiator of a revival of the choral music tradition in the 1870s through the formation of the “Moscow School.” Neurotic and deeply sensitive, Tchaikovsky led an often tortured life yet, through his emotionally-charged music, emerged a genius that created some of the most beautiful melodies. In 1891, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write three a cappella choruses. The first, included in this album,
Without Time or Season was for women’s voices and dedicated to the I.A. Melnikov’s Free Choral Class.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was not only a composer, but also a naval officer who produced an amazing amount of compositions and orchestrations.  A great Russian musician, he was also a loyal friend.  After the deaths of Mussorgsky and Borodin, it was Rimsky-Korsakov who both completed and publicized their works.
The Golden Cloud Slept, Op.13 No.2, is the second part of two three-part choruses for women’s voices composed in 1875.

Viktor Kalinnikov, perhaps overshadowed by his more recognized elder brother, Vasily Kalinnikov, composed mainly choral music. Kalinnikov used Russian folksong intonations which might explain the popularity of his pictorial miniatures such as
The Lark.

Igor Stravinsky rocked the world with his startling dynamic music and became acknowledged as one of the greatest of the 20th century composers. Before emigrating from Russia in 1917, he completed The Saucer, Four Russian Songs for Women’s Voices. In this album are included two of them, Near the Church of our Saviour in Chigisy and Ovsen.

Valery Kalistratov, present-day Russian composer, has written the picturesque modern Russian folksong, Tania-Taniusha.

Johan Brahms, cautious and shy by nature, was able only through his music to express his warmth of heart and sincerity as amply illustrated in his Ave Maria which closes this album.


The Bolshoi Theatre Children's Choir
  Singing the Music of Time


 1.  Monotonously Jingles the Little Bell, Traditional Russian folksong
 2.  In Thy Kingdom, Alexander Kastalsky (1856-1926)
 3.  Our Father, Alexander Kastalsky
 4.  Christ has Risen, Easter Stikhira
 5.  Beautiful Easter, Easter Stikhira (16th-18th century)
 6.  Come, Let Us Entreat Joseph, Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944)
 7.  Let Us, Mystically Representing the Cherubim, Pavel Chesnokov
 8.  From my Youth, Znamennyi chant of the 17th century
 9.  The Lord our God, Valery Sariyev (1950 -)
10.  Many Years, Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751-1825)
11.  Lullaby, Alexander Grechaninov (1864-1956)
12.  Night, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)



13. The Angel, Sergei Rachmaninov
14.  My Little River, Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914)
15.  Rock-a-bye, Anatoly Liadov
16.  The Lord Ascended to Heaven, Anatoly Liadov 
17.  Everywhere Snow, César Cui (1835-1918)
18.  Without Time or Season, Piotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)                      
19.  The Golden Cloud Slept, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)            
20.  The Lark, Viktor Kalinnikov (1870-1927)
21.  Near the Church of our Saviour in Chigisy, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
22.  Ovsen, Igor Stravinsky
23.  Tania-Taniusha, Valery Kalistratov (1942 -) Russian folksong 1:58
24.  Ave Maria, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)


Total Time 66:27

Monotonously Jingles the Little Bell, Marina Poplavskaia, Soloist
From My Youth, Andrey Orekhov, Soloist
My Little River, Magarita Karamnova, Soloist
The Lord Ascended to Heaven, Anastasiia Sonina, Soloist
Andrey Zaboronok, Conductor. Alexey Shmitov, Piano & Organ

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Free MP3 sample from track no.1.
Monotonously Jingles the Little Bell

DDD Digital Recording. Moscow Radio Studio Five 
& The Glinka State Museum, 1993/94.
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1993/94 - 2006 Bel Air Music®. Made in EC. All rights reserved.

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