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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Moscow Cathedral Choir - Missa Mystica (2000)

Beginning in the 1990s, there was a surge of Western interest in Russian liturgical music, the catalyst being the greater freedom of Russian cathedral choirs to perform and issue recordings. Although some Russian Orthodox chant certainly was not unknown to the rest of the world, it's been a pleasure during these past few years to discover the various individual styles of choirs and to learn of a vast repertoire virtually unheard outside of Russia (and even by most Russians). It's too bad that there's no information in the liner notes to this fine recording regarding the Moscow Cathedral Choir—an ensemble that's remarkable for its expressive range and for the technical virtuosity of its singers. Following the opening Vater unser (Our Father), sung by a sweet-sounding, unaccompanied (boy?) soprano we're jolted from our chairs by a solo bass voice singing a D-flat that's not just low, but so resonant that your subwoofer may need a tune-up afterward, especially since he intones the same note for the chant's entire four minutes and 16 seconds! He's joined by harmonizing male voices, but you'll never become distracted from nor will you forget the power of those bass notes.

In addition to chant-like works, mostly sung by men, we also hear full-fledged compositions for mixed choir in a very well-balanced and beautifully performed program whose title, Missa Mystica, refers to a sequence that encompasses the ecclesiastical year, "symbolizing the progression of a human life." Rich in texture and brimming with shimmering harmonies, the music, although varied in text, tempos, rhythmic style, and scoring, is consistent in the ardent, sincere expression it inspires from the singers—spirituality in one of its most fundamental and affecting guises. The sound, from a Moscow studio, is sufficiently detailed and well-balanced, and suitably resonant—warm in the bass registers, slightly edgy in the treble (which becomes a problem in louder dynamic passages). This is one of the better recordings available of Russian Orthodox hymns and chants, and will make a worthy addition to any collection.

—David Vernier, Classics

  • Moscow Cathedral Choir
  • Victor Popov, Director
Track List:
  1. Our father — Russian Orthodox Chant
  2. Truly meet and right, Orthodox hymn — Greek Traditional
  3. God is the Lord, Russian Orthodox hymn; Thy birth—Christmas Troparion — Anonymous
  4. Nunc Dimittis — Strokin
  5. I think of the Dreadful Day, concerto for Chorus — Alexander Andreyevich Arkhangel'sky
  6. Let my prayer arise, for chorus (Da ispravitsa molitva moya) — Pavel Grigor'yevich Chesnokov
  7. Today here hangs the cross — Russian Orthodox Chant
  8. God shall arise, Orthodox hymn — Greek Traditional
  9. Holy God — Russian Orthodox Chant
  10. With the saints give rest (Kondakion) — Russian Orthodox Chant
  11. Eternal remembrance/Blessed are they whom you have chosen — Anonymous
  12. Our father — Russian Orthodox Chant
  13. Blessed are they whom Thous has chosen — Alexander Andreyevich Arkhangel'sky
  14. Before Thy Cross, for chorus — P. Gontcharov
  15. Lord, have mercy — Grigor F. Lvovsky
  16. Great Doxology — Apostol Nikolaev-Strumsky
  17. Blessed is the man — Greek Orthodox Chant
  18. Cherubim Hymn — Dimitry Stepanovich Bortnyansky
  19. Do not cast me off in the time of old age (Ne otverzhi mene vo vremya starosti), for chorus — Pavel Grigor'yevich Chesnokov
  20. From My Youth, Antiphone, tone 4 (From the Hirmologion of 1707) — Russian Orthodox Chant
Download Links: Enjoy the Music!, or here.


  1. Very nice album. Depicts a treasure of the Russian church - choral polyphonia - no musical instruments, only voices. I like most pieces in the album, especially those by Pavel Chesnokov (just listen to track no.6).
    Greeting from Russia. Was very pleased having met this gem on the other side of the globe.
    Good luck.

  2. you must also hear georgian orthodox version of choral polyphony - find rustavi company on youtube for a sample. similarities yes, but there's twists that are call their own.
    cannot access this disc here, maybe i'll find it elsewhere, thanks!