Bel a capella sings Rachmaninov’s vespers

A capella ensemble Bel a capella conducted by its Music Director Anthony Pasquill,  presents Sergei Rachmaninov’s  Vespers opus 37  in a programme of Russian choral music in early November.

The world was in turmoil when Rachmaninov composed this work in 1915. The first world war was being waged and the social, religious and political landscape of Russia was to change forever.

The creation of this work was possibly an affirmation of a rich culture that was soon to be lost. Until the late 19th century, Russian choral music had been dominated by German and Italian influences. These foreign influences were fading as composers turned to old Russian chant for inspiration. Rachmaninov’s Vespers is considered the ultimate in Russian  Orthodox church music.

Though popularly known as the Vespers, only the first 6 of the work’s 15 movements are derived from the Vespers. The services of Matins and Prime (the first hour) follow the Vespers.

In this a capella work, the singers make use of a wide range of complex vocal techniques in melodies and plainsong influenced by traditions from Kiev, Znamen and Greek Orthodoxy (the source of Russian Orthodoxy). The result is an intensely rich and deeply spiritual listening experience.

Anthony Pasquill continues the Russian theme through the programme with music by undiscovered Russians:  Otche Nash a setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Nikolai Kedrov Snr (1871- 1940), a prolific composer of Russian liturgical music, and Sovet prevechni and Blagoslovi, dushe moia by Pavel Chesnokov (1877- 1914).

Rounding off the programme is a choral work by Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) who died long before the rumblings of revolution. Best known for his instrumental and vocal works, he has a small opus of a dozen or so choral works, of which the choir will perform Heruvimskaia pesn.


Bel a capella will perform this programme in Goulbourn at St Saviour’s Cathedral, Bourke Street, Goulburn at 3pm on Sunday 20 November

Tickets (Sydney): Adult $30, Senior/Pensioner $25, Student $20
                   (Goulburn): Adult $20, Senior/Pensioner/Student $15

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