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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars

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on 18 May 2013
Altogether a very nice record. I really must get an SACD player so that I can hear it in surround. The wonderful spacious recording seems to cry out for this sort of treatment. The choir sing wonderfully well, and some pieces such as The Great Doxology (Slavosloviye velikoye)get a wonderful luminous treatment.

Some pieces? Problem is, it is up against the greatest version of them all, the old Sveshnikov/RSFSR Academy Choir version of the 1960s. I've tried numerous versions, but none match the utter magnificence, the sonority of that old Melodiya recording. The greatest piece of all, the Nunc Dimittis (Nyne Otputschtschaeschi), where the basses sink to an astounding low B Flat, is, in this Latvian version, really quite flat in comparison, with none of the standing waves in the floor caused by Sveshnikov version. The gorgeous Ave Maria (Bogoroditze Dewo, raduisja) that follows it positively glows in the Sveshnikov version, but is rather limp in this version. Indeed, the Sveshnikov version has overall more impact, more drama. Perhaps I've loved the Sveshnikov version so long that I am no longer capable of impartial judgement.

Does this sound like damning with faint praise? I hope not. I would in no way discourage people from buying this recording, but I would encourage them also to obtain the old Sveshnikov recording - be prepared to kill for it, if necessary. As a public service, here it is:


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on 7 March 2014
The title of this work is sometimes given as “Vespers”, which is not only a mistranslation of the original Russian “Vsénoshchnoye Bdéniye” but also factually incorrect. The “All-Night Vigil” is a ceremony of the Orthodox Church, generally performed on the eve of a major festival, which does not literally last all night. (This work takes about an hour to perform). It gets its name because combines texts from the Orthodox canonical hour of Vespers with those for Matins, thus symbolically linking morning and еvеnіng.

This setting was composed by Rachmaninoff in 1915 and was originally performed at a concert in aid of the Russian war effort. After the Revolution of 1917, however, the work could not be performed in Russia, partly because of Soviet anti-religious policies and partly because Rachmaninoff, as an anti-Communist émigré, was persona non grata with the regime. The first recording was made in 1965 by the State Academic Russian Choir of the USSR, but this was only for the export market and was never made available for sale in the Soviet Union itself. Only since the fall of Communism have ordinary Russians been able to appreciate the work, and appreciation has also steadily grown in the West.

It is in many ways very different from Western church music, whether Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran, not least in the fact that it is (as required by Orthodox canon law) scored only for unaccompanied voices without instruments. All of its fifteen sections are settings of Orthodox liturgical texts. The music is based on, or influenced by, traditional Orthodox chant and the words are Old Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Russian Church,

I had previously regarded Rachmaninoff primarily as the composer of piano concertos, symphonies and secular choral works such as “The Bells”, but came across the “All-Night Vigil” when it was performed in the Royal Naval College Chapel, Greenwich, last year. The haunting, numinous qualities of the work seemed particularly appropriate to that magnificent setting, even though the chapel was built in the service of a very different religious philosophy to anything Rachmaninoff would have been familiar with. I realised that this was one of his finest compositions, albeit very different to the ones we are more familiar with, and decided that I had to get a recording for my collection. I am very glad that I chose this one which does full justice to the composer’s achievement.
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on 18 December 2012
I am on record, on this site, as suggesting that this piece is the supreme masterpiece of twentieth century music. I haven't changed my mind. It is very challenging, demanding excellent intonation and diction. Choirs without the ability to convince in the Russian Orthodox idiom will fail, while those able to sing well and clearly in the original language may lack the necessary tonal range. Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Russian performances have all been found wanting in the soprano register, while few (if any) western choirs, for many years, could approach the necessary depth of the Orthodox bass. That all changed with the Best / Corydon Singers (Hyperion), followed by Short / Tenebrae (Signum). I thought the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir joined the elite in 2008, although some seem to find that rendering a bit soulless. I'd happily recommend any of those.

This one should be in the same league, but it really isn't. The singing is beautiful, the recording accomplished, possibly a bit fuzzy. I think that the diction falls short of the best; I can't always tell in which language anyone is singing, but that may be a shortcoming in the recording. The real problem, however, is that this performance manages to be excruciatingly dull. Rachmaninov composed this masterpiece astonishingly quickly, in 1915, to help in the war effort. Shouldn't that sense of urgency be reflected in the music? It usually is, even in those seventies Bulgarian recordings with all sorts of technical deficiencies. The programme notes are right to pick out "Blagosloven yesi, Gospodi" as the heart of the work, but I don't think I have ever heard a performance fail so dismally to convey that (and I have listened to plenty, over the years). It is just so slow. I haven't compared actually performance times. It may be that, comparatively, it isn't notably slow. The fact is, though, that it sounds slow and, as the great Sir Thomas Beecham pointed out, when it comes to music, "the way it sounds" is what matters. This choir has the quality to succeed, but it hasn't succeeded in this instance.

The notes are in English and Finnish. My own favourite recorded performance, for what that matters, is the Signum one, but I don't think anyone disputes the ground-breaking quality of the Hyperion recording.
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on 13 April 2013
I bought this particular recording because of a recent glowing and enthusiastic review in 'Gramophone' magazine (online), plus sound clip. That reviewer was absolutely correct!
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on 22 March 2013
A magnificant performance! Rachmaninoff could have written this work for this excellent Latvian Choir. Everything sounds just right! Thank you!
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on 19 July 2014
Excellent piece of music. Full of atmosphere, and the voices blend together very well.
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on 26 February 2017
Breath-takingly beautiful.
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on 16 December 2016
Excellent CD!
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on 25 April 2013
This is the third recording I've bought of this music and by a short head the best. heard it on Radio 3 'Building a Library' which described it as 'transporting you to the cathedral it was recorded in'. Just about right.
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on 22 February 2013
Rachmaninov: All-Night Vigil Op. 37 (Latvian Radio Choir/ Sigvards Klava)
wonderfull music, very good price, excellent package. . . .
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