Monday, October 28, 2013

Bortniansky: Hymns and Choral Concertos - Orthodox beauty

Hymns and Choral Concertos
Ensemble Cherubim
Marika Kuzma, director

Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825) was almost an exact contemporary of Beethoven, and just as ground-breaking. He was the conductor of the Imperial Russian court and as composer, specialized in sacred choral music. The Russian Orthodox Church does not allow instruments to used in worship services, giving rise to a rich body of a cappella liturgical music.

Bortniansky took that tradition and updated it, creating a new type of sacred work, the choral concerto. This release presents nine of these works. While the texts are Russian, the harmonies are mostly Western, sounding somewhat akin to choral works by Schubert or even Mendelssohn.

Also included are two additional sacred works: The Cherubic Hymn No. 7, and the Kol slaven. The former is one of Bortniansky's most popular sacred works, often performed and recorded. The Kol slaven is even more popular: the tune became a Russian Christmas carol, and is more widely known in that version today.

The Ensemble Cherubim under Marika Kuyzma have a clean, intimate sound. One can easily hear inner workings of Bortniansky's harmonies and the interplay between voices. If you're not familiar with Bortniansky, or Russian Orthodox sacred music, this release is an excellent place to start.

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