Review: Cardiff University Symphony Chorus - Rachmaninov's All Night Vigil (Vespers) @ National Museum
With all the French musical fancies abound at Cardiff University, it was sacrilege to forget this concert parked between all the big events.
Rachmaninov's All Night Vigil is the stuff of angels. A warm blanket of Russian love, oozing in its ornamental, Orthodox resplendence. Even through the brutality of Soviet religious repression, the work is a crowning achievement of 20th century choral writing. Its popularity is unbounded (said to be the composer's favourite work by himself), with four separate recordings alone in the year 2000. John Tavener would write (Greek) Orthodox-inspired music as well. How come there aren't more composers keen on these remarkable voices from the past?
The incorporation of both Greek and Russian chants makes it a double joy. The polyphony of the university's chorus, in their huge numbers, was mesmerising. The voices were pulled away and apart with the SATB singers, going into teams of six or seven parts in the singing (the bass singers also stand alone). Kate Woolveridge sang my favourite part, the brief, yet utterly exquisite Blagoslovi, dushe moya (Bless the lord, O my soul). Feeling like a massive lament, it wouldn't feel out of place at a funeral (Rachmaninov would use the fifth vesper for his own funeral).
The museum was a perfect choice, as the acoustics lifted the music into a higher realm of bliss and serenity.
Rating: 4 Stars
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Image Source: Cardiff University website