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Kiev Chamber Choir, Mykola Hobdych - Valentin Silvestrov: Sacred Songs (2012)

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Kiev Chamber Choir, Mykola Hobdych - Valentin Silvestrov: Sacred Songs (2012)

Valentin Silvestrov - Sacred Songs (2012)
Kiev Chamber Choir; Mykola Hobdych, conductor

EAC | FLAC | Tracks (Cue&Log) ~ 256 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 179 Mb | Scans included | 01:15:07
Classical, Contemporary, Choral | Label: ECM | # ECM New Series 2279, 476 4990

The Book of Genesis tells us that in the beginning was the Word and that the Word was sound. But what if it was music? What if God, in contemplating the creation of Creation, sang being into being? If so, it might have sounded something like the Sacred Songs of Valentin Silvestrov. In this seventh ECM album devoted to the Ukrainian composer’s music, we thusly encounter a sense of space unique to the Russian liturgy: the more the voices unify in movement, the more they lift from one another like temporary tattoos, leaving behind mirror images that wash away with baptism into infinite oneness with the Holy Spirit. Sin as sun. Firmament as fundament.

Under the direction of Mykola Hodbych, the Kiev Chamber Choir likewise turns breath into physical substance, each particle activated by thrum of flesh and shaping of air. Although divided into separate collections, Silvestrov’s compositions are together a whole song—if not a song of wholeness. Their liturgical relationships, in other words, expound on mysteries of faith through an abiding faith in mysteries. The grandest statement in this regard is to be found in the Songs For Vespers (2006), which undoes two millennial knots to reveal the single thread within. “Come, Let Us Worship” invites listener and singer alike to set ancient jewels in a modern crown. Its shifting harmonies are sunrays incarnate, each taking ablution by shadow. Soloists blot the remaining songs with their supernova curls, each a messenger of immaculate peace. Among them, alto Tetiana Havrylenko glows without the need for a telescope, revealing the inner venation of sung text, as would a carpenter in wood when staining a table. Tides do not ebb and flow here on a horizontal plane, but revolve in many directions around the surfaces of natural grammars. It is only by brush of torch that their script becomes discernible to the human ear. As the music nurtures its exponents, it riddles temptation with intensities of understanding only found in scripture. Voices change their clothing in a vestry of the heart until their constitution is indistinguishable from the blood that fills its chambers. And in the slumber of a “Silent Night,” footprints leave their impressions in plush snow, extending from a childhood when the world’s shadows were merely the stuff of storybooks and dreams, now creeping into a lagoon of basses.

The Psalms And Prayers of 2007 overtake more distant mountains with their sunrise. On their watery surface floats the contradiction of a mortal life, which reaches upward even as it sinks into pleasure. In thinning the scrim of resistance to love, these melodies demonstrate one’s relationship to God as a process. Each glorifies a name that cannot contain its own holiness. With so much brightness to drink in, it is all one can do to keep from drowning. A trio of diptychs follows with further psalms and refrains. At once brooding and angelic, these cycle through pity and forgiveness and bend under the grind of faith and action. All roads then lead to the Three Spiritual Songs of 2006, by which mirrors and eyes change places, so that it is we who come to reflect ourselves.

Silvestrov’s output, much like his input, has always been concerned with memory. In this instance, it is a memory of birth that haunts the soul in search of knowledge before creation. In response to that original song, which gave us life and bodies with which to know it, only song can suffice. These are the lullabies that sustain us when the world cages us and turns out the lights. These are the hymns that remind us of the weary when we enjoy the comforts of congregation and rest.

Review by Tyran Grillo, ECMreviews.com

The Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov may have come late to choral music, but this disc - the latest in ECM’s series devoted to the composer - brings together his a cappella pieces written in 2006 and 2007. Appropriately enough the magnificent Kiev Chamber Choir, who also featured in Sacred Works (ECM 2117), are recorded in the cathedral that forms part of St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev. The building was destroyed by Stalin in the 1930s but was finally reconstructed in 1999.

As for the Kiev Chamber Choir, it was co-founded by conductor Mykola Hobdych just after the collapse of the Soviet Union; a quick look at their discography reveals a mix of familiar liturgical works - Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky - and a smattering of more modern choral pieces. They may not be as well known as some a cappella groups I’ve encountered from the Baltics and Scandinavia, but nothing quite prepared me for the seasoned loveliness of their sound. Hugely refined, darkly sonorous and lit from within as if by an ancient light, this choir imbues Silvestrov’s modern settings with a powerful sense of the vast and venerable.

True, this composer’s choral style is itself very traditional, and anyone familiar with the unaccompanied liturgical works of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Grechaninov will know exactly what to expect. That said, Silvestrov adds to his warming cadences an occasional angularity - Come, Let Us Worship, for instance - not to mention solos that rise from the gloom as gentle pleas to heaven. The serene World of Peace is simple yet indescribably beautiful, and the engineers have captured the acoustic of this space to perfection. Voices are clear and warm, perspectives are ideal and there’s none of the cave-like echo one so often hears in recordings of this kind.

The best a cappella singing should sound positively orchestral in its weight and blend, and so it does in O Virgin Mother of God. The men lay down a rich and resonant base upon which the women so faithfully build. It’s both effective and affecting, while in Today You Release (Your Servant) tenor soloist Roman Puchko’s tender, beautifully rounded singing is just one of this CD’s unexpected delights. Ditto Ernest Biekirov’s rising vocal curlecues in Lord, My Heart Swells Not With Pride, in which the choir ends with a glorious, supplicatory cadence.

Some may be tempted to lower the lights and luxuriate in this all-enveloping sound, but paradoxical as it may seem repertoire of this nature - and singing of this calibre - demands active engagement on the listener’s part. Soporific ‘holy minimalism’ this music certainly is not, and the degree of invention here is simply astounding. O King of Heaven has an artless yet sustained loveliness, and the overburdened ear and weary heart will be soothed by Silvestrov’s treatment of these profound and deeply resonant texts. There’s a touch more heft in the first of the Two Psalms of David, and Puchko makes a welcome return in the second, a luminous setting of The Lord Is My Shepherd.

Whether or not you own up to faith of any description the transfiguring beauty of this disc will move you, and mightily so. Rarely have I surrendered so completely to unaccompanied choral singing as I did here; in that respect this CD belongs with Charles Bruffy, the Phoenix Bach Choir and the Kansas City Chorale’s unforgettable - and remarkably idiomatic - rendition of Grechaninov’s Passion Week; that SACD was my top pick for 2007 (review). And just when it seems Silvestrov can’t possibly get any better the shawm-like sonorities of the Alleluia from the Two Spiritual Refrains takes one’s breath away. Hobdych’s control of choral blend and dynamic shifts is masterly, and he ensures the piece fades most gently into the waiting silence.

In the Two Spiritual Songs the Cherubic Hymn finds the women in bright raiment clad, yet in the corresponding work in the Three Spiritual Songs they are in more sober garb. Both songs are perfectly pitched - literally and metaphorically - but it’s the glorious Puchko in the penultimate track and Petro Biletskij in the final one who add a touch of deep-chested vocal magic to these settings.

This CD represents a perfect storm in that sublime music, first-rate singing and an exemplary recording conspire to create a very special disc indeed. That’s before one factors in good liner-notes by Paul Griffiths and packaging that exudes quality. Normally I’d grumble about the lack of sung texts, but that seems churlish in the presence of such all-pervading artistry.

Nourishing repertoire, ravishingly sung; a balm for the heart and soul.

Review by Dan Morgan, MusicWeb-International.com

This is truly a unique recording of some extremely unusual, highly satisfying, and in my mind, very spiritual modern a cappella choral music by composer Valentin Silvestrov. Reviewer Philip Greenfield of the American Record Guide (highly recommended for true music lovers) aptly describes the nature of Silvestrov's music here as strands or strings of flickering, luminescent, vibrating musical/choral energy. I find his metaphor compelling, though I hear this music more as a mosaic, with small tiles of great individual beauty flowing together to create a gorgeous masterwork of musical expression; indeed, an inspiring and affecting musical manifestation of spiritual infinity. In the end, the musical mosaic Silvestrov creates in these works is seemingly endless, confined by no frames or borders. The performances by the Kiev Chamber Choir, Mykola Hobdych conductor, could do this music no better, in fact, I believe they are a part of the greatness to be found here.

Let me describe this music. It consists of small segments of deliciously harmonized choral melodies, which flow together in a vague musical structure to create musical images of great beauty and sensitivity. I hear a few snipets of Bach here and there, which are by no means a detraction. The music is tonal, sad, happy, melancholy, awe-inspiring, and always gorgeous and affecting. All those who appreciate the newest choral music (Esenvalds, Miskinis, Vasks, Mealor, Whitacre, Gjeilo and Lauridsen) should find this music highly appealing, though it is a bit diverse from that genre. This music offers mainly the most ethereal, affecting, and spiritual faire of the other, but in a highly free-form manner. There may be a certain monotony to it, yet when it ends, I am highly prone to roll it right back to the beginning so that I can continue to bathe in its beauty and infinite serenity.

Review by Michael Roof

Kiev Chamber Choir, Mykola Hobdych - Valentin Silvestrov: Sacred Songs (2012)



Kiev Chamber Choir
Mykola Hobdych, conductor

rec. St Michael’s Cathedral, Kiev, Ukraine, 2008

Tracklist:

01. Come, Let Us Worship (3:20)
02. World Of Peace (2:56)
03. Holy God (3:49)
04. O Virgin Mother Of God (3:13)
05. Today You Release (Your Servant) (3:57)
06. Many Years (Vivat) (3:18)
07. Silent Night (3:51)
08. Praise God All Ye Nations (Psalm 116) (2:10)
09. Lord, My Heart Swells Not With Pride (Psalm 130) (3:16)
10. Lord Jesus Christ (4:12)
11. Blessed Is He (Psalm 1) (2:57)
12. O King Of Heaven (2:40)
13. With The Saints Grant Eternal Peace (1:46)
14. Our Father (3:41)
15. To You, O Lord, I Call (Psalm 27) (4:24)
16. The Lord Is My Sheppard (Psalm 22) (4:34)
17. Do Not Forsake Me (3:59)
18. Alleluia (3:19)
19. Cherubic Hymm (3:17)
20. Many Years (Vivat) II (2:33)
21. Cherubic Hymm II (3:57)
22. Many Years (Vivat) III (2:06)
23. Alleluia II (1:52)


Exact Audio Copy V1.0 beta 1 from 15. November 2010

EAC extraction logfile from 8. March 2013, 15:03

Valentin Silvestrov / Sacred Songs

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foobar2000 1.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2017-10-17 21:46:21

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Analyzed: Valentin Silvestrov / Sacred Songs
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
DR13 -1.60 dB -20.63 dB 3:20 01-Come, Let Us Worship
DR11 -14.29 dB -29.08 dB 2:56 02-World Of Peace
DR13 -6.11 dB -24.90 dB 3:49 03-Holy God
DR14 -4.38 dB -22.57 dB 3:13 04-O Virgin Mother Of God
DR13 -4.75 dB -25.08 dB 3:57 05-Today You Release (Your Servant)
DR13 -4.50 dB -23.64 dB 3:18 06-Many Years (Vivat)
DR12 -10.58 dB -27.09 dB 3:51 07-Silent Night
DR12 -9.76 dB -28.53 dB 2:10 08-Praise God All Ye Nations (Psalm 116)
DR14 -4.86 dB -24.67 dB 3:16 09-Lord, My Heart Swells Not With Pride (Psalm 130)
DR13 -11.31 dB -28.91 dB 4:12 10-Lord Jesus Christ
DR14 -6.86 dB -27.27 dB 2:57 11-Blessed Is He (Psalm 1)
DR13 -3.40 dB -24.08 dB 2:40 12-O King Of Heaven
DR12 -8.19 dB -27.08 dB 1:46 13-With The Saints Grant Eternal Peace
DR13 -8.03 dB -28.25 dB 3:41 14-Our Father
DR14 -4.19 dB -23.61 dB 4:24 15-To You, O Lord, I Call (Psalm 27)
DR12 -9.69 dB -26.58 dB 4:34 16-The Lord Is My Sheppard (Psalm 22)
DR14 -2.86 dB -23.21 dB 3:59 17-Do Not Forsake Me
DR14 -4.71 dB -25.73 dB 3:19 18-Alleluia
DR12 -2.28 dB -21.75 dB 3:17 19-Cherubic Hymm
DR14 -5.87 dB -24.83 dB 2:33 20-Many Years (Vivat) II
DR11 -8.49 dB -24.43 dB 3:57 21-Cherubic Hymm II
DR12 -6.53 dB -23.86 dB 2:06 22-Many Years (Vivat) III
DR11 -10.16 dB -25.20 dB 1:52 23-Alleluia II
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Number of tracks: 23
Official DR value: DR13

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 456 kbps
Codec: FLAC
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Kiev Chamber Choir, Mykola Hobdych - Valentin Silvestrov: Sacred Songs (2012)