Two of Britain's finest young choirs join forces and cross a continent to take on the sublime expressiveness of Rodion Shchedrin's 'Russian liturgy', an astonishing statement of faith composed in the early days of perestroika. Shchedrin's choral tableaux juxtapose tenderness with bracing sonic impact, and are shadowed throughout by the plangent voice of a solo oboe representing the soul of the Russian people.This ground-breaking choral partnership committed the work to disc following acclaimed UK première concert performances at the Spitalfields and Oundle festivals in the summer of 2008. In 1992 President Boris Yeltsin awarded Shchedrin the Russian State Prize for The Sealed Angel.
"The music really comes alive … Superb performances" Church Music Quarterly, September 2007
"the choir of Gonville & Caius show themselves once again as one of Cambridge's most accomplished" Gramophone
“Caught here in fine sound, this is a splendid disc of a multifaceted, many-layered modern masterpiece. The choirs sing splendidly, without producing a Russian sound, yet the composer is aware of the English choral tradition so his music's translation here is fascinating.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2009
“Sung with clarity and sensitivity by the two choirs, this beautiful, impressive piece easily bears comparison with works that Shchedrin admires like Rachmaninov's Vespers. The instrumental part for 'shepherd's pipe', usually played by flute, is here taken by oboe, played affectingly by Clare Wills.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2009 ****
“Geoffrey Webber's choir sings with greater passion than most of its Oxbridge rivals” Classic FM Magazine
“glittering precision … marvellous choral sheen” International Record Review
“...the subtle textures of Shchedrin's liturgy are perfectly rendered by the Latvian State Choir in the sonorous surroundings of Eberbach Monastery. The amazing polyphonic discord at the epiphanic moment of the revelation of Judas's betrayal is stunning.” The Independent, 23rd July 2010 ****
“The allegorical resonances of The Sealed Angel – in which a rural community protects a religious icon – seem obvious and the text is purely religious, the equivalent of a cinematic treatment featuring the icon alone. The nine movements play continuously, the first three a flowing evocation of angels before the atmosphere changes in the freely dissonant fourth, depicting Judas's betrayal. After the great choral screech at its climax, the music calms down with the choir tacet in the fifth; the halting, static sixth is a chordal prayer of repentance and salvation. The vertical and horizontal elements then fuse in a powerful setting of the Lord's Prayer (section eight) before the quiet reprise of the opening.
Shchedrin provides a detached counterpoint to the voices with a series of oboe solos, free variations not so much on a theme as a way of writing.
These top and tail the main choral blocks, punctuating rather than accompanying, nicely played by Clare Wills. The choirs sing splendidly, without producing a Russian sound, yet the composer is aware of the English choral tradition so his music's translation here is fascinating. So is his avoidance of the holy minimalism of many of his compatriots or the consonance of Rautavaara's larger choral works. Caught here in fine sound, this is a splendid disc of a multifaceted, manylayered modern masterpiece.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010