The Centennial Legacy of Russian Sacred Music: 1917-2017 / Treasures by Composers of the Emigration was the first concert in Russia to offer a top-level professional performance of this important repertoire.
The concert was announced with the Russian title: «Столетие русского духовно-музыкального наследия: 1917-2017 / Богатства композиторов Зарубежья».
On January 29, 2018, the Moscow Conservatory, one of Russia’s premier musical institutions, presented a concert of Russian sacred music in its Rachmaninoff Hall, the performance venue for the choir of the Moscow Synodal School until its closure in 1918. This hall, with its cathedral-like acoustics, is especially suited to this music.
The concert consisted of works by composers who wrote outside the borders of their homeland. The majority of masterworks on this program was sung in Russia for the first time in an effort to offer a repertoire not only neglected during the Soviet era, but even disparaged and publicly vilified. The audience experienced the distinctive quality of these compositions and their uniquely prayerful sound.
From the beginning, this project has been a collaborative effort, bringing together the artistry of accomplished church musicians and conductors with the latest in scholarly knowledge and research. Some fifty singers from different choral groups in Moscow came together for the evening’s occasion. Foremost among them was the Kastalsky Male Chamber Ensemble, which has already received overwhelming applause from critics and concertgoers throughout Russia and Europe. For purposes of this concert, the Moscow Conservatory faculty and the ensemble’s director, Alexei Rudnevsky enlarged the group to include about twenty women’s voices.
Peter Jermihov, a Russian-American conductor widely known for his exemplification of choral technique, especially in the Russian sacred tradition, rehearsed and conducted the expanded choir. In addition, Alexei Rudnevsky led the Kastalsky Male Chamber Ensemble in an epilogue consisting of selections by a handful of composers who continued to write in Russia, echoing the efforts of their compatriots in exile.
Important consultants to the project were Vladimir Morosan, editor and publisher of the multi-volume series Monuments of Russian Sacred Music (originally launched with the support of Mstislav Rostropovich and Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Washington, DC, 1991), and noted music historian and author of publications in Russian church music, Nicolas Schidlovsky (Ph.D., Princeton University). Their rare expertise, including knowledge of the history and extensive archival sources, has laid the groundwork for the evening’s program. This included the works of such celebrated composers as Alexander Gretchaninoff, Alexander Chesnokov, Nikolai Tcherepnine, Boris Ledkovsky, Alfred Swan, Andrei Ilyashenko, Johann von Gardner, and Mikhail Konstantinov.
The great renaissance of Russian church singing and sacred composition, or the “new direction” as it came to be known, began in the final decades of the nineteenth century and continued through the first two decades of the twentieth until its suppression by the torrent of religious persecutions in the 1920s and beyond. In line with the original vision for this project, the concert directly addressed this question, and its chief organizer, initiator, and host, the Moscow Conservatory, set out to accomplish this with the vital input of overseas specialists. This concert in Moscow attracted widespread media coverage and publicity, reaching deeply into the hearts of many modern Russians, especially those in search of a perspective on the one hundred years since 1917 Revolution.