Till now prep has been up to us, but great resources have been made available – a Church Slavonic pronunciation guide and perusal scores. One of us speaks Slovakian, a few have had a taste of Polish, but this is certainly my first time trying to nail Church Slavonic. When you read back into the nature of Slavonic Orthodox music, there are some striking principles. The words and the music are inextricably linked. Music isn’t permitted on its own, but is matched to the text to enhance it and convey its message. No instrumental accompaniment is permitted. Each text has a choral tone chosen for it to fit the mood and to get across what it means. In this way, the music could seem very rigid and fixed, but the effect brings a special intensity and spirituality to the singing. With no accompanying instruments, the pieces divide four voices to up to 16 parts, giving a really rich texture. Reading through the translations has helped me with the feeling of the words and music. Rachmaninov composed this piece almost completely with traditional chants and tonal rules, at the very peak of the development of Orthdox choral music in the last few years of Imperial Russia just before the revolution. In that way, it is particularly poignant, as there was little further development if any in the years after the revolution. This will be a special experience.
Next weekend, we’ll convene to rehearse for the first time before the performance weekend. Based on our experiences in the lead up to Mahler 2 last November, I expect to be in diligent company and for Brian to raise up up to standard intensively. Next Saturday is just one day in Dublin, then we really get to task on the weekend of the performance in April.
All of the the above is very good for the soul…