Cherubim & Seraphim - Russian Orthodox Choral Works from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II

In Russia, despite the westward vision of Tsar Peter the Great by 1700 the repertory of the St Petersburg Imperial Chapel Choir was still dominated by a style heavily dependent upon homophony. Stronger Western influences would be felt when central European musicians flocked to take up opportunities in Russia during the first decades of the eighteenth century. A courtly preference for Italian music grew, reaching a high point during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-96), influencing two centuries of ethereal and spine-tingling Orthodox choral works.



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This disc is precisely a collection of choral works composed by Italian and Russian composers between 1765 and 1915; 150 years of spine-tingling creations of sheer uplifting beauty. The programme includes 14 short pieces that vary from the profound to the prayerful, from the thankful to the rejoiceful, but each composition has that inescapable human yearning of wanting to be entwined with the divine. Harmonia Sacra under Peter Leech present this music in performances that are skilful, stylish and hugely attractive to the ear. The air is consistently tender rather than forcefully dramatic, and the great attention to detail readily discloses all the subtleties of these quite inspiring gems. Sound and annotations are first-rate, but the 50 minutes playing time might induce some reservations. But this is only a minor glitch in what is a very fine issue that should be snapped up without hesitation.

 - Gerald Fenech -

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