Christian Thielemann

Christian Thielemann

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hidden Music of the Russian Church: Sacred Chants after the Revolution 1917 – Moscow Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Ilya Tolkachev (Audio video)




















Russian Orthodox church music did not disappear after the 1917 revolution but continued to exist in a semi-underground state, partly because Stalin kind of liked the stuff and was in any event more worried about persecuting Shostakovich and other more potentially critical composers. Nevertheless, the composers represented on this collection all faced substantial danger at one time or another as a result of having remained in the Soviet Union. The music resembles that of earlier Russian religious music in the Romantic tradition, perhaps denatured a bit in the works of some of the composers by the mainstream of secular Romanticism. Sample the Cherubic Hymn of Pavel Chesnokov, which is not so much cherubic as stentorian, but which is a truly stirring work. The Moscow Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral under Ilya Tolkachev is exceptionally strong, but the real standouts here are the Christophorus engineers, who obtain a deeply resonant, but perfectly clear sound in that structure. Highly recommended for lovers of the Russian choral sound.

Source: James Manheim (allmusic.com)



Υπό τη διεύθυνση του συνθέτη και διευθυντή χορωδίας, Ilya Tolkachev, η Χορωδία του Καθεδρικού Ναού του Σωτήρος Χριστού ερμηνεύει θρησκευτικά έργα τα οποία γράφτηκαν από Ρώσους συνθέτες μετά την Οκτωβριανή Επανάσταση και είχαν απαγορευτεί από το σοβιετικό καθεστώς. Η εξαιρετική ηχογράφηση πραγματοποιήθηκε στον Καθεδρικό Ναό του Σωτήρος Χριστού, στη Μόσχα, τον Φεβρουάριο του 2015.


Hidden Music of the Russian Church
Sacred Chants after the Revolution 1917

Богослужебная музыка Русской Православной Церкви
После революции 1917 года


Alexander Alexandrov (1883-1946)

1. Bless the Lord, O My Soul
(First Antiphon from the Divine Liturgy)
2. In Thy Kingdom Remember Us, O Lord
(Third Antiphon from the Divine Liturgy – Soloist: Sergey Godin, tenor)
3. We Hymn Thee
(Fragment of the Eucharistic Canon from the Divine Liturgy – Soloist: Evgeniya Tschishikova, soprano)
4. The Lord's Prayer "Our Father"
(Hymn from the Divine Liturgy – Soloist: Irina Taraburina, soprano)
5. Praise the Name of the Lord (A major)
(Hymn from the All-Night Vigil)
6. Praise the Name of the Lord (D minor)
(Hymn from the All-Night Vigil)
7. From My Youth
(Gradual Antiphon from the All-Night Vigil)


Nikolai Golovanov (1891-1953)

8. He Who Closed the Abyss
(Kontakion of the Great Saturday from the Midnight Office, Passion Week)
9. Cherubic Hymn (Arranged for mixed choir by M. Kotogarov)
(Monastery Chant from the Divine Liturgy)


Alexander Nikolsky (1874-1943)

10. O Gladsome Light Vesperal
(Hymn from the All-Night Vigil)
11. We Hymn Thee
(Fragment of the Eucharistic Canon from the Divine Liturgy)


Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944)

12. Cherubic Hymn
(From the Divine Liturgy)
13. It Is Meet and Right to Bless You, O Theotokos
(Hymn to the Theotokos from the Divine Liturgy)


Alexander Kastalsky (1856-1926)

14. St Simeon's Prayer "Lord, Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart in Peace"
(Hymn from the All-Night Vigil – Soloist: Sergey Godin, tenor)
15. Let God Arise
(Paschal Hymn, Eastern Orthodox Resurrection Service)


Moscow Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral

Choral director: Ilya Tolkachev


Патриарший хор Храма Христа Спасителя

Хоровое директор: Илья Толкачёв


Recording: February 2015, Christ the Saviour Cathedral Moscow (Russia)

Cover photo: Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and Big Stone Bridge in Moscow on a post card of 1905

Christophorus Records 2016

(HD 1080p – Audio video)


In remembrance of Katharina Vasilyevna Manzurova (1931-2016), the first female Cantor of Saint Petersburg, a contemporary witness of the horrendous hunger blockade of Leningrad. Through her dedicated, meticulous work, she re-created handwritten copies of liturgical choral scores which had for the most part been destroyed, thereby compiling the musical archive of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Посвящается памяти Екатерины Васильевны Манцуровой (1931-2016), регента Санкт-Петербурга. Екатерина Васильевна пережила гонения на Православную Церковь, страшную блокаду Ленинграда, но не на день не оставила свое служение Богу на клиросе.Она кропотливо и с любовью восстанавливала (переписывала вручную) для нужд клиросного пения в приходах Ленинграда разрушенный в советское время нотный архив богослужебной музыки Русской Православной Церкви. Подвиг этой скромной труженицы сопоставим с масштабом деятельности церковных композиторов, сочинения которых звучат на этом диске.


The Moscow Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral

The consecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 1883 took place with the participation of the legendary choristers of the Chudovsky Monastery (Choral director: P. Skvorzov), and the no less illustrious Imperial Court Capella under the direction of M.A. Balakirev and N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. The year 1901 saw the actual founding of the Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The directorship was entrusted to M.V. Karpov, a graduate of the Imperial Court Capella in St Petersburg. One of his successors was A.V. Alexandrov, the composer of the national hymn of the USSR and of present-day Russia.

After the reconstruction of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in 1998, the Choir was newly founded as well, allowing the traditions of the art of church singing of the Cathedral under the direction of the Moscow choral directors N.S. Georgievsky and S.V. Krivobokov to come to life again. Since 2007 the Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral has been directed by Dr. Ilya Borisovich Tolkachev.

Ilya Borisovich Tolkachev, born into a family of Orthodox priests, gained early experience in the founding and conducting of a choir group when he gathered together the children in the church community of his father, Boris Tolkachev, Archpriest of Trinity Cathedral of Uspensky Monastery in the city of Alexandrov. Later on he worked in Moscow Cathedral in honour of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All that Mourn" under the famous twentiethcentury choirmaster N.V. Matveyev. It was through the personal recommendation of Matveyev that Tolkachev became the director of the
Cathedral choir.

Ilya Borisovich Tolkachev is not only a conductor but also a well-known composer of liturgical choir works, which explains his continuing interest in contemporary music. Based on its classical background, the choir invites leading Orthodox liturgical composers of Russia to collaborate with them - which is important on a missionary level. Works by contemporary composers are presented during the liturgical celebration, which adds freshness to the sound of ancient prayers. The choir creates a soft tonal aura which supports clergy and visitors in their concentration on prayer. Thus the excellent professional performances of spiritual choral works continue to preserve the spirit of prayer in Orthodox liturgies.

Today the Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral represents the full range of contemporary Orthodox music as it reaches an audience of millions through the Patriarch's liturgical celebrations via television and due to frequent concert activities within and outside of Russia. The choir acquired significant success through their performances in Milan (Milan Cathedral) and in Rome (St Peter's Basilica).

Source: CD Booklet


The Composers






















Heroes of two epochs

This CD featuring the Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow presents a programme of sacred works by Alexander Kastalsky (1856-1926), Alexander Nikolsky (1874-1943), Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944), Alexander Alexandrov (1883-1946), and Nikolai Golovanov (1891-1953).

Almost a century lies between the birth of the earliest and the death of the youngest composer, but this century of artistic triumphs by the greatest Russian Orthodox composers is not a merely random period of time, but represents a period of Russian history with such gigantic upheavals that it puts all other peaceful eras firmly in the shade.

All composers on this CD experienced the collapse of Russian culture in 1917 and were witness to the murder of clergymen, the destruction of churches and the mockery of works of previous generations. Each of these composers accomplished acts of heroism, risking their life and work in their resistance to the rupture of ancient traditions. It is thanks to these individuals that the Russian choral tradition has survived up to the present day. Most of these individuals actively participated in the Great Patriotic War (war between Germany and the Soviets duringWorld War II).

These musicians were active during a time in which both the subsequent social upheavals and the destruction of choral singing on the part of "proletarian internationalism" could not have been conceived. "During the years 1910-1917, the Synodal Choir directed by N. Danilin achieved the level of perfection as in the days of V. Orlov. The choir's concert appearances in Italy, Austria, Germany and Warsaw were a great success. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a significant rise in the number of church choirs established which became famous through their excellent performing practice. The Chudovsky Choir, the Christ the Saviour Cathedral Choir and the choir directed by the gifted conductor I. Juchov were among the best in Moscow..." (P. Alexandrov).

It is no coincidence that all music historians place the Choir of the Synodal Academy of Sacred Music at the top of their list of the best vocal ensembles. This legendary choir still remains the model for all subsequent choral societies and almost all the composers featured on this CD were members of the Synodal Academy.

The musicologist Marina Rachmanova, a leading specialist for this period, writes: "The Synodal Academy of Sacred Music in Moscow, the central teaching institute for sacred music in Russia, was founded back in the 1860s. Boys joining the choir at the age of between seven and eight received schooling in all subjects taught in high schools alongside a variety of music disciplines. A core subject was the study of sacred vocal music and choral conducting. The students were permanently housed in the Synodal Academy and sang in the choir until their voice broke: after completing their studies, they pursued professional music careers. The best students were retained as teachers and conductors of the academy choir. During this time, the position of academy director was occupied by a series of prominent musicians including S. Smolensky, a researcher of Russian liturgical music, the music critic S. Kruglikov, the choral director V. Orlov and the composer A. Kastalsky. Figures such as N. Danilin and N. Golovanov, leading musicologists focusing on Russian liturgical music, the archpriests W. Metallov und A. Preobrazhensky and the composers and choral conductors P. Chesnokov, D. Allemanov and V. Kalinnikov were among the diploma students and teaching staff at the Synodal Academy. Members of the supervisory council included the composers P. Tchaikovsky, A. Arensky, S. Taneyev and V. Safonov, to mention only a few. In 1918, the Synodal Academy was transformed into the State Folk Choir Academy and in 1923 became the choral department of the Moscow Conservatory".

What other conclusions can be drawn, other than that the Synodal Academy was apparently held in great esteem? Despite the Revolution, the grand masters of Russian choral music and the general Russian musical world, at their head the brilliant Alexander Kastalsky, did not flee Russia, but remained in their native country, in permanent risk of their lives, and – in defiance of Trotsky – filled the "old wine" of musical tradition into the "new bottles" of the unfamiliar order of life. Had these heroes displayed timidity during this time, they would have retired from the fight to uphold their life ambitions and we would never have experienced the choirs of Sveshnikov and Jurlov who continued the work of the "Synodians", nor the compositional success of G. Sviridov, nor the contemporary "Pleiades" of choral composers and conductors. Ultimately, the Patriarch Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral would also no longer have existed. This would otherwise have been an entirely forgotten world which would have left no surviving traces of its ancient traditions.

Source: Ivan Vishnevskiy, composer, musicologist and journalist (CD Booklet)


Fyodor Klages (1812-1890):
"Interior of the Cathedral of Christ Saviour in Moscow" (1883).
The cathedral before its destruction.
The idea for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow dates from the early 19th century. When the last of Napoleon's soldiers left Moscow, Tsar Alexander I signed a manifesto dated December 25, 1812, declaring his intention to build a cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior. The cathedral would "signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her" and acts as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people.

Plans were drawn and a site was chosen but before construction began, Alexander I was succeeded by his brother Nicholas. Profoundly Orthodox and patriotic, the new Tsar disliked the Neoclassical design that had been endorsed by his brother.

Alexander commissioned his favourite architect Konstantin Thon to create a new design, modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The present site was chosen by the Tsar in 1837; a convent and church already standing on the site had to be relocated.

Construction began in 1839 and the cathedral didn't emerge from its scaffolding until 1860; elaborate frescos by some of the best Russian painters continued in the interior for another 20 years. The cathedral was consecrated on the day Alexander III was crowned, May 26, 1883. A year earlier, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" debuted there.

After the Revolution, the prominent site of the cathedral called out for redevelopment by the Soviets, who planned to replace the church with a monument to socialism, known as the Palace of Soviets. It would rise in modernistic buttressed tiers to support a gigantic sculpture of Lenin, arm raised in blessing, perched atop a dome. On December 5, 1931, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was dynamited and reduced to rubble.

Funds for the largest building in the world remained unavailable, however. A foundation hole gaped on the site until under Nikita Khrushchev it was transformed into a huge public swimming pool.

With the end of the Soviet rule, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (February 1990). A temporary cornerstone was laid by the end of the year.

A construction fund was opened in 1992 and foundations began to be poured in the fall of 1994. The lower church (Church of the Transfiguration) was consecrated in 1996, and the completed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was consecrated August 19, 2000.

Source: sacred-destinations.com


Ο Καθεδρικός Ναός του Σωτήρος Χριστού, βρίσκεται στις όχθες του ποταμού Μόσχοβα, λίγα τετράγωνα δυτικά της Κόκκινης Πλατείας στη Μόσχα. Είναι ο ψηλότερος ορθόδοξος ναός του κόσμου, ο μεγαλύτερος ναός στη Ρωσία και ένας από τους μεγαλοπρεπέστερους στον πλανήτη. Στο εσωτερικό του μπορούν να χωρέσουν δέκα χιλιάδες άνθρωποι.

Η ιδέα της ανέγερσής του ανήκει στον τσάρο Αλέξανδρο Α' ο οποίος θέλησε να οικοδομήσει έναν μεγαλοπρεπή καθεδρικό προς τιμή του Σωτήρος Χριστού για να δηλώσει την ευγνωμοσύνη του ρωσικού λαού προς τη θεία πρόνοια η οποία οδήγησε στην αποχώρηση των στρατευμάτων του Ναπολέοντα από τη Μόσχα στις 25 Δεκεμβρίου 1812.

Το πρώτο αρχιτεκτονικό σχέδιο ανέγερσης του Ναού ανήκει στον Aleksandr Lavrentyevich Vitberg και χαρακτηρίζεται από το φανταχτερό νεοκλασικό του στυλ. Το σχέδιο αυτό δεν υλοποιήθηκε ποτέ, καθώς ο αδερφός του τσάρου Αλέξανδρου και διάδοχος του θρόνου τσάρος Νικόλαος ανέθεσε στον αρχιτέκτονα Konstantin Thon τη δημιουργία ενός νέο-βυζαντινού μνημείου στο πρότυπο της Αγίας Σοφίας.

Η οικοδόμηση του Ναού διήρκεσε 44 ολόκληρα χρόνια. Το ύψος του ξεπέρασε τα 415 μέτρα και γενικότερα το αποτέλεσμα των μακροχρόνιων εργασιών ήταν εκθαμβωτικό. Τα εγκαίνια του Ναού πραγματοποιήθηκαν στις 26 Μαΐου 1883.

Ο Καθεδρικός Ναός του Σωτήρος Χριστού υπήρξε το σκηνικό στην πρώτη παρουσίαση, το 1880, του έργου «Εισαγωγή 1812» του Πιότρ Ιλίτς Τσαϊκόφσκι, το οποίο ο συνθέτης έγραψε στη μνήμη της υπεράσπισης της Μόσχας από τους Ρώσους εναντίον της προελαύνουσας Μεγάλης Στρατιάς του Ναπολέοντα, στη μάχη του Μποροντίνο, το 1812.

Μετά τη σοβιετική επανάσταση ο χώρος του Ναού επελέγη ως το ιδανικό σημείο ανέγερσης του παλατιού των σοβιέτ. Έτσι μετά από απόφαση του υπουργού του Στάλιν, Καγκάνοβιτς, στις 5 Δεκεμβρίου 1931 ο Καθεδρικός Ναός του Σωτήρος μετετράπη σε ερείπια με μια σειρά ελεγχόμενων εκρήξεων δυναμίτιδας.

Η ανέγερση του παλατιού των σοβιέτ δεν πραγματοποιήθηκε ποτέ και πολύ αργότερα ο Νικίτα Χρουτσόφ διέταξε τη δημιουργία  στην περιοχή  της μεγαλύτερης εξωτερικής πισίνας του κόσμου, της πισίνας του Μόσχοβα. Τον Φεβρουάριο του 1990 η ρωσική ορθόδοξη εκκλησία έλαβε άδεια από τη σοβιετική κυβέρνηση για την ανοικοδόμηση του Ναού και ανέθεσε στον Aleksey Denisov το σχεδιασμό ενός αντιγράφου υψηλής ακρίβειας. Η κατασκευή του ξεκίνησε το 1992 και παρά την αντικατάσταση του αρχιτέκτονα στα μέσα των εργασιών, ολοκληρώθηκε τον Αύγουστο του 2000.


Photograph taken of the demolition of the cathedral on Stalin's orders, December 5, 1931.



















See also

Sergei Rachmaninov: All-Night Vigil – Beate Koepp, Kwon-Shik Lee – WDR Rundfunkchor, Nicolas Fink (HD 1080p)

Mihkel Kerem: Symphony No.3 "For the Victims of Communism" – Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Mikk Murdvee (Audio video)

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