Choral Arts: Rachmaninov Vespers Op. 37 9/29/2012

Cathedrals are rare in the new world so the chance to hear Choral Arts Philadelphia perform at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was an opportunity not to miss.  This would also be a chance to hear one of my favorite composers in a very different form of unaccompanied choral.  Gone were the fireworks of blazing piano and full orchestra and in their place was a deeply moving set of songs from the All Night Vigil liturgies.

The Choral Arts singers worked closely together under the expert leadership of Matthew Glandorf and the Cathedral contributed in its own way by blending their voices even further as they bounced around the the large sanctuary in the form of sustained echos.  The impact of hearing music as it was intended, in the kind of space for which it was created, was profound.  Rachmaninov appeared to reach back through the ages in this creation to produce music that was both ancient, yet modern at the same time.  The result was a gorgeous set of music that left me wanting to hear it again.

I appreciated Glandorf’s interesting program notes which acted like a personal guide through program.  His expressive conducting style also provided clues.  I don’t recall his hand gesture to prompt for ringing bell sounds from the sopranos but the interpretation was quite clear.  The large audience followed instructions to save their applause until the end and a whispered “Wow!” was the only subtle break in reverent silence; it echoed my thoughts exactly.

I hope that the microphones that were setup to record the event are signs that a recording will be available sometime in the future.  It is certainly a program that I’d like to hear again.