Within days of its release, MusicWeb International (an prestigious online classical music magazine) named PaTRAM Institute’s latest CD, “More Honourable than the Cherubim”, its RECORDING OF THE MONTH! An amazing accomplishment given that it was just released on July 30th.
Dan Morgan, the reviewer, said, “Nearly all the works in ‘More Honourable than the Cherubim‘ are new to me, but, as I soon discovered, there’s so much to enjoy here. Indeed, the opener, Petar Dinev’s ‘It Is Truly Meet’ has a purity of tone and certainty of line that augurs well for what’s to come. One of the most striking things about Chesnokov, as revealed in ‘Teach Me Thy Statutes‘, is the sheer strength and consistency of his work. That’s borne out by ‘O Theotokos, We Shall Never Cease Proclaiming’, the first of several contributions to this new collection. Its thrilling weight and amplitude are a pleasing foil to the Dinev; that’s a sign of astute programming. Different again is Gretchaninoff’s ‘Let us Hasten with Fervour’, the burnished, gold-leaf loveliness of this choir sure to ravish the ear and batter the heart. (Such epiphanies move me to say that as much as I admire Pavel Grigorievich’s output, that of Alexander Tikhonovich occupies a very special place in my affections.)
After just a few tracks, it’s clear this is an exceptional release. Gorbik is at once intuitive and inspired, the music-making as finely calibrated as it was in ‘Teach Me Thy Statutes’. As for Blanton Alspaugh, John Newton and Byeong-Joon Hwang’s recording, it scarcely feels like one, the listener transported, without effort, to that votive space. And, having just pledged allegiance to the great Gretchaninoff, it’s Chesnokov who tests my loyalties with ‘Let Us Pray to the Most Holy Theotokos’. The soloist, bass-baritone Mikhail Davydov, is haunting, his voice rising above the choir in fervent prayer. It’s an extraordinary effect that suggests the composer knew just how to use perspectives to dramatic/emotional advantage, as did Hector Berlioz before him. Chesnokov and Davydov return later in the programme with ‘Revealing to Thee the Pre-eternal Counsel’, the sound of which is unusually sumptuous – orchestral, even – the singing full-bodied and impeccably blended.
Those two composers – and Rachmaninoff, of course – are the most accomplished and original ones here. That said, their lesser-known counterparts reveal talents of their own. For instance, Boris Ledkovsky’s ‘We Have No Other Help’ is blessed with some of the most gorgeous colours and cadences I know. Compare that with the deftness and vigour of ‘At Thy Deathless Dormition’, by Stepan Degtiariov, or Sergiy Trubachov’s rather austere ‘Troparion to the “Donskoy” Icon of the Theotokos’, the simplicity of which is strangely moving. In each and every piece, I found myself marvelling at the versatility of this choir; not only that, they respond so warmly – and so readily – to their conductor’s sure and sympathetic guidance. The album draws to a close with a setting of ‘It Is Truly Meet’, by Constantine Schvedov, and Nikolai Uvarov’s ‘The Angel Cried Out’, both of which show these singers at their incisive best. The excellent liner-notes complete this most rewarding and desirable package.
A magnificent release, beautifully conducted, flawlessly sung and incredibly well recorded; indeed, it’s sure to be one of my Recordings of the Year.”