The Epiphany Festival at the Novaya Opera
January 19 – 30, 2021
“…In this wide world exists a realm which patiently, but insistently awaits Rachmaninoff's inspiration” was the dedicatory inscription of the composer Alexander Kastalsky to Sergei Rachmaninoff on a score of his arrangement of the kondak With the saints give rest and the ikos Thou alone. Kastalsky presented Rachmaninoff with the score shortly before his first concert-portrait. Rachmaninoff admired Kastalsky’s choral works (he called him “Rimsky-Korsakov of the Russian choral music”). Approximately seven years after the described episode (1910) Rachmaninoff wrote the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.
The composition was premiered in December 1910 in Moscow by the Synodal Choir led by Nikolay Danilin. It was with a view to using the unique voices and performing capabilities of the choir that the composition was written. On the whole, the premiere was successful but there was also criticism. Rachmaninoff was reproached for excessive stylistic freedom, operatism, unusual sound effects and deviation from the church canon. That’s why Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy was rarely performed even in concert halls. It is quite obvious that the composer thought of the work as a single whole and aimed to give it the concert character. But more than a century later, another thing is also clear: Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy draws on the basic principles of Russian sacred music.