Rachmaninov: Russian Easter Vesper Mass, Liturgy / Robev, Popsavov - 3cd + DVD

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This set includes 3 CDs and 1 DVD.


RACHMANINOFF Vespers . Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom 1 & Georgi Robev, cond; Miroslav Popsavov, cond; 1 Bulgarian Natl Ch; Sofia Orthodox Ch 1 CAPRICCIO 7010 (3 CDs: 173:21)

& DVD, “Mystery of the East” (75:00)

This Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was hailed as the longest version on records (18:6, where I misspelled the conductor’s name) and the Vigil (Vespers) was warmly received when new (20:1), so this makes a valuable coupling. The Liturgy has been offered in varying lengths because the litanies are repetitive but often abbreviated. The recently reissued Martin Best version (32:4) offered as much as could be fitted onto one CD. Popsavov, like Polyansky (16:6), Milkov (16:6), Kocsis (19:6), and Bruffy (20:4), requires two discs in order to extend the litanies and the Cherubic Hymn, which are drastically (some would say mercifully) abbreviated in the single-disc versions. Yet here Popsavov is 12 to 20 minutes longer than any of the other two-disc versions, so it is the logical choice if you want more than Best offers. Another reason to go for this one is the rich Slavic voices of the choir, so satisfying in this music. Best’s choir was as good as the non-Slavic choirs get, but this is extraordinary.

Robev’s Vespers was rated right next to the classic Sveshnikov version, high praise indeed. Like the Liturgy , it was issued without texts or translations, and it had the minor fault of titling the work “Russian Easter Vesper Mass,” both Easter and Mass being incorrect terms. In a box that costs little more than one full-priced single CD, it is no surprise that the texts are still lacking. If you are unfamiliar with the Orthodox liturgy, this is a serious lack, but if you can supply for the lack of texts, this has a claim on your attention for the extended length of the Divine Liturgy.

The DVD included here arrived more recently as a separate issue but never received a review. The two sections of the program were made in Tomsk (Siberia) and Sofia (Bulgaria) in May 2002, but the notes, which are abridged from the original booklet, write only about Tomsk. The city was built in 1604 and the monastery of Our Lady and St. Alexei was built at once. The city also has the tomb of Tsar Alexander I, who, after his reputed death in 1825, is widely believed to have lived in Tomsk as Feodor Kusmich. He died in 1864 (the Britannica of 1911 called him Fomich and gave his date of death incorrectly as 1870) and was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1984. The documentary 45-minute segment on Easter at Tomsk is narrated with a generic background of liturgical singing, while the 30-minute concert in Sofia (Hristov, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Kedrov) has the camera moving from the choir to the church interiors in familiar fashion. The Tomsk segment is expertly done, giving a real understanding of life in a Siberian city where the Orthodox faith appears to be strong. At the price, this is quite a generous offering.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: C7010

  • UPC: 845221070100

  • Label: Capriccio

  • Composer: Sergei Rachmaninov

  • Conductor: Georgi Robev, Miroslav Popsavov

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bulgarian National Chorus, Sofia Orthodox Chorus