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The first chorus, Molitva (Prayer), uses the traditional liturgical text ‘Rejoice, O virgin’ from the Orthodox Vesper service. Musically, the work blends unison melodic motifs reminiscent of the ancient znamenny chant of the Russian Orthodox Church with harmonically resplendent, multi-layered textures characteristic of the Moscow Synodal style. The second number, Liubov sviataya (Sacred love), uses a non-liturgical text intoned in chant-like fashion by the soprano soloist over what might be termed a Byzantine-style drone (ison) in a twentieth-century harmonic incarnation. The effect is, at once, serene and filled with intense pathos. The third chorus, Pokayannïy stih (A Verse of Repentance), employs actual znamenny chant melodies, transcribed by the Soviet era’s pre-eminent chant scholar, Maksim Brazhnikov; the text is drawn from the penitential and apocalyptic poetry of the Russian ‘spiritual verses’—paraliturgical sacred songs that abounded in medieval Russia. Once again, to achieve sonorous and dramatic ends, Sviridov melds linear chant phrases with a layered ‘homorhythmic polyphony’, a style of choral writing distilled from indigenous Russian folk-singing initially by Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, but developed to a high degree of refinement in the choral works of Alexander Kastalsky and Sergei Rachmaninov.
from notes by Vladimir Morosan © 1997