Having recorded his famous "All-Night Vigil" setting for Hyperion, the Corydon Singers have done a marvellous thing indeed by turning their attention to Rachmaninov's "Liturgy of St John Chrysostom." On first hearing, this was not perhaps as appealing to my ears as the Vespers, but the significance of this music should not be overlooked. It was written as a sort of prototype to the All-Night Vigil, and listeners familiar with any recording of that work will recognise various traits such as lush harmonies, the use of Russian chants, the overtly prayerful nature of the music and a descent to the infernal regions of the voice (there are actually more low B flats in this piece than there are in the All-Night Vigil!). This work is actually longer than the Vigil by over ten minutes, although a lot of this consists of chanting by a Priest (a role taken on by the outstanding bass Peter Scorer, who sounds almost incredibly Russian). Overall, the musical material (melodic and harmonic) is much simpler, not requiring the same virtuosity needed for the Vigil but still very much a test of stamina for the singers. Nonetheless, there are some particularly fine moments on this disc, including the Cherubic Hymn, the meltingly beautiful verse "Tyebye Poyem" ("We Praise You") and the eight-part Lord's Prayer which is frequently performed as a separate work on account of it's haunting and instantly memorable use of two choirs, texturally interwoven.
The Corydon Singers, recorded over several sessions in the Temple Church, London, create on this recording the most powerful, moving and stirring sound. Comparisons with actually attending a Russian service would not be out of place here. Plus, the singers have a very special flexibility and blend that does ample justice to the music (with which Rachmaninov was most satisfied).
Matthew Best and his choir have created a minor masterpiece here. It may perhaps not be easy on the ear to hear it all in one go- although it literally does transport you into the world of Russian Orthodox Music as never before.