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Rakhmaninov: Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 31

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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You might not expect to find an outstandingly well-sung and idiomatic recording of so profoundly Russian a work as Sergey Vassilyevich Rachmaninoff's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom emanating from the Heartland and a group called the Kansas City Chorale, but you would be limiting yourself and your expectations unnecessarily. This is a beautifully realized performance of a spiritually moving and harmonically lovely score. It is a more complete version than that recorded by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, and for that reason is the first choice in CDs of this music. --Sarah Bryan Miller
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Kansas City Chorale
  • Conductor: Charles Bruffy
  • Composer: Sergey Rakhmaninov
  • Audio CD (October 15, 1996)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Nimbus Records
  • ASIN: B0000037H6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,780 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
How do you get an an American choir from the midwest to make a superior recording of the most recorded major work in Russian Church Music? First, they use an actual Protodeacon (Fr. Andre Papkov) for the exclamations. Most recordings don't even use a deacon (which during the litanies is like listening to half of a conversation), and those recordings that do have a deacon, usually have some non-Orthodox singer come in and sing the part. This makes for a superfluous and mediocre performance by the "deacon," who usually has absolutely no knowledge of how a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church sould sound. Second, the choir is coached by experts who specialize in the field of Russian Liturgical Music. Other recordings don't even come close to what a Russian choir should sound like. This choir has REAL "Russian" basses who are mellow and the foundation of the choral sound, and not those loud, out-of-control baritones. The sound is beautifully blended and doesn't feature the sopranos screaming above the rest of the choir, like on other recordings. Their diction is perfect and crystal clear, which makes them sound like Russians. Thus, it is no wonder why Nos. 8 (Cherubic Hymn), 12 (We Hymn Thee), and 14 (Our Father) sound like you've entered the heavenly realm.
Finally, the CDs are packaged with beautiful and informative liner notes, and a complete translation of the entire liturgy, in both English and in the Slavonic phonetic.
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Format: Audio CD
Don't jump to conclusions and assume that a group that calls itself the "Kansas City Chorale" can't perform the Rachmaninov "t. John Chrysostom Liturgy" the way it should be. I nearly missed out on what is a truly amazing and gorgeous recording because of musical snobbery. 'What could people in Kansas possibly know about Russian?' Apparently, quite a lot. And with the aid of the sumptuous, golden voice of Father Andre Papkov, a singer from the New England Conservatory who has made it his business to become a definitive voice in Russian liturgical singing, you get the full sense of this most gorgeous mass. I actually preferred it over several Russian recordings, sad to say, because the Kansas City Chorale was better able to capture the idiomatic style that is central to this type of singing - seamless and blended, with huge architectural harmonies and extremely effective dynamics that bely their small size (only 30 singers although they sound like at least double that). Buy this one and you won't be sorry!
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Format: Audio CD
Who would ever have guessed that such an authentic-sounding performance of this quintessentially Russian choral music would originate from Kansas City? The Kansas City Chorale, surely one of the finest groups currently singing in the US, is augmented by several extra basses (who sing those low C's with apparent ease) and by a US-based Russian orthodox priest singing the celebrant. It's no surprise that a New York Times music critic nominated this recording for record of the year.
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Format: Audio CD
I agree with all the reviews. The quality of the performers is just astounding. The one thing that I would add, which keeps me from giving this CD a 5 star rating, is that the level is so low that I have to turn up my CD player all the way to hear some of the softer sections, and even then I have to strain to hear it. I've tried it on several players, from a Car CD player to my huge home theater, and the result is the same. Other than that, it is a great piece.
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Format: Audio CD
This Protestant loves beautiful church music whereever he can find it. And Russian Orthodox church music is just about the most beautiful in the world. As a Protestant, I obviously do not how this SHOULD sound. I only know that some of this music is so hauntingly lovely it's scary. I also know that the choir is outstanding here and that the sound quality of the CD is extraordinary.
Buy this. You won't regret it.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have three versions of Rachmaninoff's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The earliest of the three is conducted by Mikhil Milkov with Ivan Petrov (bass), Vassil Stoytsov and Yordan Vidov (tenors), Veselina Zorova (alto), and Emilia Maximova (soprano) with the Chorus of the Bulgarian Radio (Sofia). This performance is (was?) available on Angel SB-3864 and runs about 94 minutes. In my opinion the quality of the singing is the best of the three. The second of the three is the performance by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and the CD --- EMI 7243 5 57677 2 1 --- runs a little over 75 minutes but has extensive notes (including translations in French, English, German, and [I think] Russian). The director is Stephen Cleobury and the performance is excellent. The last, a performance by the Kansas City Chorale, conducted by Charles Bruffy, is the performance reviewed here, on Nimbus 5497/8, and runs about 95 minutes. I found the performance here to be the most realistic, and the notes enclosed with the CD give the English translation. This is the performance that seemed the most like what Rachmaninoff probably intended, with the religious atmosphere quite pervasive throughout the performance.

Well, they are all excellent, and I think you should own at least one of the three. I doubt that the Angel Audio LP is readily available, but the two performances on the CDs are both excellent. The Liturgy is one of Rachmaninoff's least-known and most rarely performed works, but its very existence should alter your opinion of Rachmaninoff's music (for the better, I sincerely hope).
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