Culver City Observer -

Master Chorale Opens New Season With Russian Works


October 8, 2015

By Steven Lieberman

Observer Reporter

The Los Angeles Master Chorale, led by Artistic Director Grant Gershon, opened the 2015-16 season, its 52nd, on September 26 at Walt Disney Hall with “The Russian Evolution,” a program of sublime Russian choral works grand and intimate.

The program also included the West Coast premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s seminal The Canticle of the Sun based on the nature-centric writings of St. Francis of Assisi and composed for chamber choir, percussion and virtuoso cello, featuring the LA Philharmonic’s celebrated principal cellist Robert deMaine. The text for Canticle was possibly the first piece of literature written in the modern day language of Italian by Saint Francis of Assisi.

Gershon contrasted Gubaidulina’s ethereal piece and unleashed the full power of the Chorale’s 120 voices with lush, harmonic, a cappella music composed for large choirs, including selections from Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil and Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Grechaninov’s Cherubic Hymn and Passion Week as well as Andrei Ilyashenko’s We Should Choose to Love Silence.

Gubaidulina wrote The Canticle of the Sun in 1997 on the occasion of the 70th birthday of virtuosic cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who premiered it in 1998. Paying tribute to the cellist's famously sunny disposition, Gubaidulina says she made “the choral part very restrained, even secretive, putting all the expression in the hands of the cellist and percussionists.”

DeMaine’s interpretation was honorable and pleasing.

Gershon describes Gubaidulina, who grew up impoverished during the Soviet era but found refuge in nature and her deeply held spiritualism, as a “mystic who marches to her own drummer, composing deep and profound music.”

The Chorale demonstrated why they are one of the very best on the international landscape by delivering each a cappella piece with that rich, harmonic sound that the composers intended.

These sacred choral works were a perfect fit for the Disney’s sacred space. The audience was rocketed to a dimension of peace and serenity.


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