Quantcast

Feb 242011
 

The Masterworks Chorale doesn’t get the critical attention or large audiences it rightly deserves. Friday’s concert may not have been as well-attended as it should have been, but those in the audience realized they were having a rare and extraordinary listening experience.

By Susan Miron.

Steven Karidoyanes conducting the Masterworks Chorale

The Masterworks Chorale has been presenting consistently interesting and unusual concerts in the two years I’ve attended their concerts. On Friday (May 13) conductor Steven Karidoyanes came up with a rarely performed (and even more rarely recorded) program of selections from Tchaikovsky’s “All-Night Vigil” Op. 52, completed in 1882. It was an evening of astonishing beauty.

Tchaikovsky (1840–1893), we learn in Steven Karidoyanes’s excellent program notes, wrote “All-Night Vigil” after he had already become the masterful composer of two operas, two piano concertos, Swan Lake, the “1812 Overture,” and four symphonies. He had been studying ancient church hymns in hopes of transcribing them for four-part chorus. In a letter to the conductor who had premiered many of his works, he wrote that he hoped “contribute toward the sobering up of our church music, which has been distorted by the untalented and banal editions of the Imperial Chapel.”

All-night vigils have been relegated, understandably, to monastic life. Tchaikovsky’s “Vigil” is composed of harmonized music for two services of the Orthodox Church: Vespers, sung in the evening, and much longer Matins, sung in the morning. The composer set his music to the traditional language of the Russian Orthodox Church, Church Slavonic.

The combination of singing in a totally unfamiliar language without instrumental accompaniment was a huge challenge, and the choir rose magnificently to this challenge. The two male soloists, culled from the chorus—Valery Steinbok and David Potts—were dramatically and musically superb. This contemplative music opposed, in every sense, the boisterous “1812 Overture” but was mesmerizing on its own sacred terms. This was music, as Mr. Karidoyanes pointed out, conducive to prayer and meditation. To keep the spirit of the vigil alive, no clapping was allowed after the Evening Vespers.

In order to get the audience focused and into the contemplative mood needed for the perfect listening mood for “All-Night Vigil,” Mr. Karidoyanes cleverly programmed, as an opener, a sacred chorus by Tchaikovsky, a beautiful hymn for the Russian Orthodox Memorial Liturgy composed around 1885, just a few years after the Vigil. It was a brilliant idea and a moving listening experience.

The Masterworks Chorale doesn’t get the critical attention or large audiences it rightly deserves. Friday’s concert may not have been as well-attended as it should have been, but those in the audience realized they were having a rare and extraordinary listening experience.

PinterestRedditStumbleUponTumblrEmailShare

Read more by Susan Miron

Follow Susan Miron on Twitter

Email Susan Miron

  One Response to “Fuse Classical Music Review: Masterworks Chorale Offers a Contemplative Tchaikovsky”

Comments (1)
  1. a lovely review. exactly what they deserve. Now try to get them the size audience they deserve

 Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)