Sergei Rachmaninoff, Choir of King's College London, Joseph Fort - Vespers: All-Night Vigil

Published Thursday 18th May 2023
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Choir of King's College London, Joseph Fort - Vespers: All-Night Vigil
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Choir of  King's College London, Joseph Fort - Vespers: All-Night Vigil

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Delphian DCD32496

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Given that 1st April 2023 marked the 150th birthday of the influential Russian (and later American) conductor, pianist and composer Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff, it should be no surprise to see a host of new recordings and re-releases to celebrate his achievements. And there, of course, is the rub: what will stand out in an already crowded marketplace? Here Joseph Fort and the Choir of King's College, London tackle Rachmaninoff's ever-popular 'Vespers' (opus 37) by not pretending to be anything they are not, approaching the music as a talented mixed-voice choir from the Anglican tradition. Fort keeps things moving without losing any of the emotional depth and the singing is excellent throughout, helped by the acoustic of All Hallows at Gospel Oak in London and producer/engineer Paul Baxter does his usual splendid job in the recording of it. Not being a part of the Orthodox tradition myself I am not qualified to comment on how well this music works as worship but listening to it as a concert piece I found it most worthwhile and the texts are translated in the CD booklet for those of us who need it. Having sung part of this with my local choir I know how challenging it can be, particularly when we had to learn the words phonetically as we had no Russian speakers in the village at that time. The KC Choir sound confident and their diction is good and Rachmaninoff's bell-like phrases ring out loud and clear throughout the entire work. Personally, I would have liked to have heard a little more from the basses but that is a minor quibble and there is a great deal to enjoy in this celebration of one of the giants of Russian music. With the choir and Delphian Records donating proceeds from sales of this recording to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal I hope many readers will invest in a copy.

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