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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    RUSSIAN RESONANCE


In the first part of the concert, the capacity audience was regaled with a sequence of sacred settings, chants and hymns. Some of these settings are the result of research in monastery libraries, have seldom been heard in the West, and the Konevets Quartet's performances were exquisite -- the smooth and resilient first tenor -- Dmitryi Mednikov, soaring above the finely honed ensemble of Alexander Nikanov, second tenor, Mikhail Trifinov, baritone and Igor Dmitriev, bass. Even the simplest, brief pieces made compelling listening thanks to the quartet's ensemble qualities, individual voices finely balanced and unified, with rich vibrato and nuances of dynamic expression throughout.

The traditional chant of the Konevets and Valaam Monasteries opened the sequence, a simple modal melody in clear unison with the final verse doubled in the upper octave. The highlights included music by better known composers -- Rachmaninov's O come let us worship (which begins the Vespers), and Tchaikovsky's We Hymn thee, we bless thee, with its inspired polyphony and chromaticism. Yet there was also great beauty of colour in the smooth harmonies of less familiar composers -- O Gentle Light by Nikolsky (1974-1926), the plangency of The Mystical Supper by Chesnokov (1877-1944), several of whose settings came across with telling expression, and tonally conventional twentieth century works by Egorov and Golovanov (1891-1953). Most of the minor mode works had a Slavic pathos and expansiveness, yet several were bright and rhythmic, such as Christ is risen by Kastalsky (1856-1926), The Beattitudes by Christov (1875-1941) and a classically-styled 'Concerto for Choir' No 15 by Bortniansky (1751-1825).

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Copyright © 22 November 2002 Malcolm Miller, London, UK


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