“Brilliantly led by Paul Hillier, this choir sets a standard for
choral performance that is unparalleled today.”
There are no words besides absolutely stunning that do justice to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s recording of Sergei Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil. Brilliantly led by Paul Hillier, this choir sets a standard for choral performance that is unparalleled today.
Composed in 1915, Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil is a poignant reminder that the horrors of war can bring about a renewal of spiritual artistic creativity, not just a sense of Adorno-esque anomie. Based on the traditional znamenny plainchant traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church, the All-Night Vigil is one of the most profoundly affective and spiritually uplifting compositions from the early 20th century, as well as being a musical composition of enormous aesthetic value. Those who cherish the plainchant traditions of the Western church may find the Orthodox predilection for the bass voice to be startling at first. It is fitting that Rachmaninov retained the prominence of the bass voice, particularly in the role of the narrator whose troped interpolations announce each section of the composition. The composition derives its title from the fact that the texts that are set come from the evening Vespers and the morning Matins portions of the Offices. These are mostly familiar texts, such as the Doxology and the Magnificat, but in Rachmaninov’s hands they are treated to otherworldly musical settings. There can be no doubt that the numinous is present in both Rachmaninov’s composition and in the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s interpretation of the same.