We invite you to watch this video of a performance of one of Tchaikovsky’s sublime “Cherubic Hymns”
Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky has rightfully earned a place on lots of “greatest” lists. He is one of the greatest ballet composers of all time, one of the greatest orchestral composers and, thanks to Eugene Onegin and Queen of Spades, one of the greatest opera composers of the Romantic era too. He was also a prolific composer of very fine songs and piano pieces.
But does Tchaikovsky merit a place on a list of the greatest composers of choral music of all time, alongside the likes of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Brahms, Verdi, Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Britten? Few people would say that he does. And then there is the fact that of the 250 works that he completed during his lifetime, only about 11 have anything to do with chorus.
Which Only Makes It More Surprising . . .
All those considerations make a new Carus recording of Tchaikovsky’s choral works all the more surprising and fulfilling. The performance, from the NDR Chor conducted by Philipp Ahmann, is superb in every way and all the works are nothing short of wonderful. I have put all the tracks from this new release into one playlist that our members can enjoy with just one click.
Here is a list of the selections on this new release:
- Nine Sacred Pieces (tracks 1-9; please note that the first three of these pieces are the Cherubic Hymns Nos. 1, 2 and 3)
- Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Opus 41 (tracks 10-13)
- An Angel Cried Out (track 14)
Please take a moment to comment and let us know how you liked this recording. Wishing you wonderful listening, as always.
The remarkable aspect of Tchaikovsky’s work – which is usually overlooked – is that he wrote successfully in *every* major musical genre of his time. Piano works, string ensembles, a huge body of art-songs (романсы), symphonies, overtures, occasional and ceremonial works, concertos for major instruments… he not only wrote it all, but there is not a single ‘dud’ amongst them all. And of course – his music for the Russian liturgy, which is rarely heard in the West, for various ecclesiastical reasons.
Yet in the West, we still hardly know Tchaikovsky. With the exception of ONEGIN, his operas go unheard. Perhaps Пиковая Дама (‘Queen of Spades’) gets an occasional hearing? But when did you last hear MAZEPPA – surely his bloodcurdling masterpiece? Perhaps western audiences are still not ready for a piece which ends with the heroine wandering demented among the corpses, carrying her own father’s head in a sack – and believing it to be her own aborted child?
And if that’s not sick enough yet for you… how about heroine who’s been imprisoned in an animal’s body, and beats her wings to a bloody pulp against the windows… as she watches the wedding of her lover to another woman? All too often his grim Poe-like shock horror is dressed up as glitzy empty fantasy. (Of course, the idea of love with a different kind of being would have had a resonance with the composer we can only imagine).
When will we finally get a stage production of Опричник (‘The Secret Agent’)? Even Tchaikovsky himself later disowned the piece (after a ‘whispering campaign’ by Balakirev accused it of being ‘un-Russian’ in its French Grand-Opera format, with a breeches-role companion for the hero).