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Blessed Art Thou among Women (HDCD High Definition CD)

Various Composers

PaTRAM Institute Singers
Peter Jermihov
69:12
Reference Recordings
C132
4/17/20
CD Price: $16.98

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The liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church is extremely rich with hymnography in honor of the Virgin Mary—the Most Holy Theotokos or Mother of God, as she is typically referred to. Virtually every complex of Orthodox hymns, ranging from weekly or feast-day poetic verses (stichera) sung as tropes between psalm verses, to the Matins odes patterned on Biblical canticles (heirmoi), to the final hymn at the conclusion the Eucharistic Canon, culminates with praise of Mary — “more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim.” This myriad of hymns, naturally, has represented a very fruitful ground for composers of Orthodox chants in past centuries and for composers of choral music over the last three centuries.

The same hymnological and musical richness provides a wealth of material for a new CD, Blessed Art Thou among Women (Reference Recordings, FR-737), the latest offering from the PaTRAM Institute Singers, under the direction of Peter Jermihov. This outstanding choral ensemble, assembled from some of the finest choral singers across North America, was honored in 2019 with a Grammy nomination in the “Best Choral Performance” category for their recording of Kurt Sander’s Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. On this album, they transition from unity to diversity, as they perform an array of 25 individual works dedicated to the Mother of God, spanning over three centuries—from Vasily Titov (c.1650–c.1715), the leading composer of Peter the Great’s era, to Sergei Zheludkov (b. 1989), one of the rising Russian composers of the present day. And what a splendid array it is!

The repertoire lineup is indeed star-studded. Here the listener will find hymns that are familiar and widely beloved, such as “Today the Virgin Gives Birth” (Deva dnes’) and “Beneath Thy Compassion” (Pod Tvoyu milost’) by Bortniansky; works by the well known representatives of the Moscow Synodal School—Alexander Kastalsky, Victor Kalinnikov, Pavel Chesnokov, Alexander Gretchaninoff, along with Sergei Rachmaninoff, who was a kindred spirit; and also, most refreshingly, works by some lesser-known figures of the “New Direction” in Russian church music composition—Alexander Chesnokov (Pavel’s brother), Nikolai Danilin, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Nikolai Tolstiakov, Alexander Nikolsky, and Andrei Ilyashenko; some of their works represent world premiere recordings. Rounding out the program are works by more recent composers, including Boris Ledkovsky, Nikolai Matveyev, and Georgy Sviridov. The musical lineup, thoughtfully assembled into logical sub-units, provides the listener with familiar road markers, as well as the opportunity to broaden and deepen one’s appreciation and acquaintance with the sacred musical treasury of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Throughout the program, there are moments of exquisite choral beauty, punctuated by outstanding solo contributions: by soprano Fotina Naumenko, basso profundo Glenn Miller, baritone Protodeacon Leonid Roschko, and basso profundo Alexis Lukianov, who poignantly intones “Memory eternal” to his late father, Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov (1927–2018), to whose memory this album is dedicated. The recording itself was made in the sumptuous acoustics of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell, New Jersey, which was built by Father Valery. Another special moment is the opening pealing of the cathedral bells, skillfully rung by Fr. Valery’s grandson, Peter Lukianov.

In a departure from common practice, the CD booklet contains extensive program notes written by the conductor himself, Maestro Peter Jermihov, who combines his scholarly perspective and performer’s insights to enrich the listeners’ experience with his incisive commentary; anyone who purchases this album as a download will want to obtain and read these liner notes as well.

Reviewed by Vladimir Morosan

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TRACK LISTING

No. Composer Title Sheet Music Time Buy
1 The Bells of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral 2:01
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2 Dmitry Bortniansky Today the Virgin Gives Birth 2:30
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3 Alexander Kastalsky Today the Virgin Gives Birth Ks008 1:39
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4 Vasily Titov O Virgin Unwedded V1-35 3:15
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5 Georgy Sviridov A Hymn of Praise to the Mother of God 3:03
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6 Pavel Chesnokov O Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us Cn251 3:35
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7 Sergei Zheludkov Do Not Lament Me, O Mother 5:11
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8 Sergei Rachmaninoff The Theotokos, Who Is Ever-vigilant in Prayer Ra001 9:49
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9 Victor Kalinnikov Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice Ka017 1:13
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10 Nikolai Tcherepnin Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice 2:01
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11 Alexander Gretchaninoff It Is Truly Meet 1:37
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12 Nikolai Tcherepnin It Is Truly Meet 2:58
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13 Alexander Kastalsky Rejoice, O Queen 1:49
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14 Nikolai Danilin All of Creation Rejoices in Thee 4:34
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15 Alexander Chesnokov Do Not Lament Me, O Mother 3:24
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16 Boris Ledkovsky The Angel Cried Out 4:36
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17 Andrei Ilyashenko The Mystery of God from All Eternity 1:33
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18 Grigory Lvovsky O ye Apostle, Assembled Here 2:42
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19 Matveyev, N, Magnification for the Icon "Joy of All the Sorrowful" 3:26
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20 Nikolai Tolstiakov With the Voice of the Archangel 5:11
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21 Alexander Nikolsky To Thee, the Victorious Leader 1:17
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22 Nikolai Tolstiakov To Thee the Victorious Leader 1:44
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23 Dmitry Bortniansky Beneath Thy Compassion 3:58
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24 Feofan Alexandrov In the Flesh Thou Didst Fall Asleep 2:26
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25 Pavel Chesnokov Memory Eternal Cn222 3:33
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