Russian Chamber Chorus of New York (RCCNY) presents the second concert in its series, The Spirit of Old Russia at 4 pm on Saturday, January 11 at St. Charles. The program traces the development of Russian sacred music from the 18th century through the 20th century, including its roots in Russian folk songs and ancient chant melodies. Compositions will include a setting of Pushkin’s haunting Winter Road by Vissarion Shebalin, three sacred choral miniatures by Nikolai Golovanov, a double-choir concerto by influential Baroque Ukrainian composer Dmitry Bortniansky, and a setting of Gogol’s text “Boundless Fields” by Alexander Kastalsky, a prominent Russian choral composer virtually unknown in the West. For this concert program, the chorus will be joined by Anatoly Trofimov on the bayan, the traditional Russian button accordion, and Tamara Volskaya who will play domra, a lute-like traditional Russian instrument. With this program, RCCNY audiences will gain a greater understanding of how Russian choral music has evolved and blossomed over centuries.
Bortnyansky: Glory to God in the Highest
Golovanov: Troparion of the Nativity; Wonderful Mystery; Christ is Born
Yegorov: Gladsome Light
Chesnokov: Let my Prayer Arise
Grechaninov: Cherubic Hymn
Kastalsky: God Is With Us
Shebalin: Winter Road
Krylov: Little Dawn
Kastalsky: Boundless Fields
Authentic Folk Songs:
Oy, Po Dorojechke (Oh, on the Little Road)
Oy, Chei To Kon’ (Oh, Somebody’s Horse)
Ah, Ty Step Shirokaya (Ah, You Wide, Expansive Steppe)
NOTES ON THE PROGRAM
The Spirit of Old Russia II features Russian sacred and secular music as well as folk songs, reflecting Russian cultural traditions throughout the last several centuries. The starting point in our historical journey is with ancient Russian znamenny and demestvenny chants, melodies which reflect the life and heritage of the Russian people. RCCNY was among the first groups to perform these chants at a time when they were utterly unknown in America and forbidden in Soviet Russia. (In fact, the Library of Congress used RCCNY’s performance of ancient znamenny chants in its documentary, Old Believers—part of the Great Heritage series.) The program goes on to include a folk melody-infused setting of Gogol’s text “Boundless Fields” by Alexander Kastalsky, a prominent Russian composer virtually unknown in the West. Gogol’s text—set perfectly and hauntingly by Kastalsky—ponders the very nature of the Russian soul. The program also features a somber, crystalline setting of Pushkin’s haunting “Winter Road” by Vissarion Shebalin, who uses a richly Romantic harmonic palate to paint the scene of a carriage driving through a lonely, snowy night. Also on the roster are three spare and beautiful sacred choral miniatures by Nikolai Golovanov, the head of the Bolshoi who had to compose his works in secret during Stalin’s time. The first part of the program is rounded out by works from Yegorov, Chesnokov, Grechaninov, and Krylov.
The second part of the concert will showcase authentic peasant songs and arrangements of folk tunes, including Oy, Po Dorojechke (Oh, on the Little Road); Oy, Chei To Kon’ (Oh, Somebody’s Horse); Ah, Ty Step Shirokaya (Ah, You Wide, Expansive Steppe); and Goodly Spirit (Shchedryk, an Ukrainian carol.) The choir will be accompanied during several pieces by Tamara Volskaya on domra and by Anatoly Trofimov on the bayan, traditional Russian folk instruments. The bayan is one of the most popular folk instruments in Russia, and evolved into its current design in the 20th century.
The music to be performed in The Spirit of Old Russia II is little known to New York City audiences. The weaving of chant and folk melodies throughout will demonstrate to audiences how Russian composers turn again and again to these familiar melodies, rooting their own creativity in the foundation of village songs and stories. It is through this timeless music that audiences will truly experience the spirit and soul of old Russia.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
The Russian Chamber Chorus of New York was founded in 1984 by Artistic Director Nikolai Kachanov. Over the course of 29 years, the 30-member chorus has become America’s preeminent Russian vocal ensemble and one of the world’s greatest ambassadors of the Russian creative spirit. Known for its stylistic versatility, richness of sound, and subtlety of expression, RCCNY commands a wide repertoire, from ancient liturgical chants to world premieres by leading contemporary composers.
RCCNY has performed at Carnegie Hall in the American premiere of Sergei Taneyev’s opera Agamemnon with the Manhattan Philharmonic under Peter Tiboris, and the Aquila Theatre Company featuring Olympia Dukakis; with the Czech Philharmonic under Vladimir Ashkenazy; with the Moscow Virtuosi under Vladimir Spivakov; and has participated in the American premiere of Mikis Theodorakis’ opera Electra and in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Kirov Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. In June 2008, RCCNY appeared in a performance of Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov.
RCCNY was profiled in Moscow’s prestigious Melodiya magazine and in a publication of Moscow’s P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory. The group’s several CDs include Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy and Vespers. Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was chosen by The New York Times among the top 10 classical CDs of 2001.
The chorus has appeared on the nationally acclaimed NPR radio program A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. Russian Chamber Chorus performances of contemporary music have been hailed by critics: James Oestreich (The New York Times) called the chorus’s “superbly prepared cantata performances” of music by Yuri Yukechev “extraordinary; richly imagined and deftly realized.” Subsequently, First Art, a radio program devoted to choral music, aired Yukechev’s My Heart is Ready across the United States. Performances by RCCNY have been featured on New Sounds with John Schaefer and Around New York with Fred Child (WNYC-FM).
Founder and artistic director of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York, Nikolai Kachanov was born in Russia in the Siberian city of Barnaul, capital of the Altai Region. He holds a Ph.D. in choral conducting from the Novosibirsk Conservatory and completed post-doctoral studies at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1981, Maestro Kachanov moved to the United States with his wife, Tamara, and their son Pavel. In 1984, Nikolai and Tamara founded the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. Kachanov is devoted to presenting new and underexposed works that embody Russia’s rich heritage and its contemporary spirit. As a result of his commitment, audiences have been introduced to the ancient chants previously banned in his homeland (and completely unknown in America). Kachanov created the Ussachevsky Festival of Russian-American contemporary music, held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Kachanov has prepared large concert choruses for Vladimir Ashkenazy, Leon Botstein, Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov, and Peter Tiboris; and he participated as a coach in the 2004 Lincoln Center Festival’s U.S. premiere of John Tavener’s all-night vigil, The Veil of the Temple. Kachanov has been interviewed by Fred Child for NPR’s From the Village to the Concert.
Nikolai Kachanov’s compositions can be heard in two recordings: The Call (2003), and Benevolence (2013), which contains two of his choral works: Benevolence, a choral cycle set to the poetry of Nicholas Roerich, and Reflections on Stanzas from the Book of Dyan, a composition written for chorus, synthesizers, and trumpets, interweaving elements of Eastern and Western musical traditions.
Tamara Volskaya is considered to be one of the leading contemporary performers on the domra. She is a Merited Artist of Russia, a Laureate of the USSR competition, and a professor at the Mussorgsky Ural State Conservatory of Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Anatoly Trofimov is a bayan (button accordion) virtuoso, music teacher, and prolific composer. He has composed and arranged many works for domra and bayan, folk ensembles, and orchestras. His compositions were published and performed throughout Russia. Trofimov has won major international competition in Vienna, and has appeared as guest artist in France, Germany, Hungary, and Finland. He taught bayan and accordion master classes at folk music conventions throughout the US and Canada. One of the greatest bayan accompanists in the world, Trofimov creates a serene yet powerful musical atmosphere in each of his performances.
Together, Tamara Volskaya and Anatoliy Trofimov comprise one of the most remarkable and inspiring musical duos to be found anywhere in the world. Winners of international and national competitions, they have toured throughout Russia, Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan, and have recorded several CDs.