The Christian church is most of the way through observing the season of Advent (for 2021, November 28 to December 24). Today on Classical Sunday, I felt drawn to playing an excerpt from choral work I heard at a friend’s around the first week of the period, two years ago.
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for Chorus, Opus 31, is one of two major, unaccompanied choral creations of the Russian romantic composer, pianist and conductor Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943, sometimes written as Sergei Rachmaninoff). The work, which Rachmaninov composed in 1910, contains 20 movements. When it debuted that year, authority figures in the Russian Orthodoxy found it too modern, hampering the work from gaining much recognition.
John Chrysostom (347-407 AD) was Archbishop of Constantinople and one of a group of early leaders who developed Christianity’s liturgical basis. Numerous churches honoured him as a saint after his death. In addition to preaching and public speaking, he was famous for condemning the misuse of authority. It would be interesting to see how Chrysostom would address some of the systemic abuses that churches have been implicated in through history, such as the running of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools system.
The twelfth movement of Opus 31, “We sing to Thee,” is a piece I like for its slow, soft, contemplative quality, compared to some other parts that are heavy and dramatic. The rendition I’ve chosen seems to have been recorded even lower in volume than different versions, and, for me, this makes it even more attractive and inviting.
“We sing to Thee” comes from a 1993 recording of Valery Polyansky conducting the Russian State Symphony Capella.
Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the audio from the Valery Polyansky YouTube topic channel: