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GRAMOPHONE (10/2003)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 0794881852826



Reviewer: David Fanning


Bortnyansky's choruses are cornerstones of the Russian sacred repertory, and the Cherubic Hymn No 7 and the Concerto No 32 both won a nod of recognition from Tchaikovsky, who other­wise found little to praise and much to blame in this composer. The works by Galuppi and Vedel here recorded, and even Sarti's Now the Powers of Heaven, for all its ecstatic efflorescences, likewise embody a stabilised musical language, transplanted from the central European high Baroque/ClassicaI lingua franca.


It is the more untamed music by less familiar composers on this CD that really takes the breath away. Especially haunting in its oft-repeated archaisms is the anonymous O Most Holy Maiden Mary. Remarkable, too, are the wildly revolving sequences of Diletsky's Praise the Name of the Lord and the Venetian-influenced antiphonal writing of Vasily Titov's Glory/ Only-Begotten Son .


Questions of authentic performance style in this repertory are vexed. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir make a more cultivated, 'Western' sound than some may be familiar with, or even respond to; nor can they match the fervour of Orthodox choirs that have sung this music down the generations. On the other hand that fervour can itself sound very forced and manufactured these days. Taken on their own terms the Estonians sound fully engaged, and Paul Hillier has them producing beautifully homogeneous tone throughout a wide dynamic range.


As in the first volume of this series (11/02), recording quality is warm but clear. Close-up listening reveals some traffic noise, and a couple of items start at a slightly different pitch from the end of the one before . But those are tiny defects, and on the plus side Marika Kuzma's essay is as succinct and helpful a summary of the essence of Orthodox polyphony as I have come across.

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