On Facebook, my choral conductor friends have been challenging each other to choose their 5 favorite or life changing choral pieces. I guess this would be a variation of the game, Desert Island, where you have to pick the 5 things (movies, music, books, etc.) that you would have with you on a Desert Island. Since I have been writing this blog once a week, I figured I would post one new piece a week for five weeks. I'll also include a Youtube link so that you can listen.
I am going to limit my choices to 5 anthem length pieces. Major choral works like Messiah or the Brahms Requiem would be too obvious for this little exercise. Those pieces have shaped choral conductors' lives for generations. I find it more interesting to focus on anthems because they will be more unique to me.
So on with the countdown.
#5 Bogoroditse Devo Sergei Rachamaninoff
So the astute reader will say, "Dr. Phelps you have broken your rule already." Bogoroditse Devo is in fact from a major work, The All Night Vigil. However, the pieces were written for a liturgical setting and are often performed separately. Bogoroditse Devo is a Russian setting of the Catholic prayer Hail Mary. It uses a straightforward musical language that is reminiscent of Russian and Catholic Chant. It uses harmonies that show off Rachmaninoff’s amazing sense of musical drama; the same kind of intuition that we hear in his famous piano concertos. It begins with a quiet hymn-like setting of the opening text. In the middle of the piece, the altos sing the melody while the sopranos and tenors soar around them. After this the Basses enter for a magnificent climax that brings me to tears just about every time I listen to the piece. It is one of the most sensitive and alluring pieces of choral music I know.
Copy and paste the link for Robert Shaw's recording and enjoy.