BBC Music Magazine - - Choral & Song -

Mem­ory Eter­nal to the Fallen Heroes; Doors of Thy Mercy; From My Youth; Blessed

Are They

The Clar­ion Choir/steven Fox

Naxos 8.573889 53.25 mins

In his own era, Alexan­der Kastal­sky was a ma­jor player in Rus­sian mu­sic – a stu­dent of Tchaikovsky and Taneyev, he him­self had a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on the cho­ral style of com­posers in­clud­ing Rach­mani­nov and Grechani­nov. Yet to­day, his mu­sic rarely fea­tures on disc other than oc­ca­sional brief ap­pear­ances on at­mo­spheric Christ­mas al­bums. More’s the pity, if this su­perla­tive record­ing is any­thing to go by.

Be­gun in 1914, Kastal­sky’s Mem­ory Eter­nal, a re­quiem for those lost in the First World War, made its ini­tial ap­pear­ance as a largescale con­cert work for choir and orches­tra – the a cap­pella ver­sion, recorded here for the first time ever on disc, fol­lowed a cou­ple of years later. An ex­act con­tem­po­rary of Rach­mani­nov’s Ves­pers, it never quite matches that work in terms of glo­ri­ously arch­ing lines, but none­the­less has many mo­ments of ex­quis­ite cho­ral writ­ing.

Recorded in the sump­tu­ously spa­cious acous­tic of St Jean Bap­tiste Church in New York, The Clar­ion Choir’s per­for­mance is as ar­dently pas­sion­ate as it is im­mac­u­late in its bal­ance and pac­ing. Chants be­tween move­ments are sung not by a mem­ber of the choir but by Leonid Roschko, a pro­todea­con in the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church, adding a gritty-voiced au­then­tic­ity to this hugely ad­mirable project. Jeremy Pound PER­FOR­MANCE RECORD­ING

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