To me, this is the epitome of a major release. It’s a world premiere recording of a major work with an assemblage of all-stars. Alexander Kastalsky’s Commemoration for Fallen Brothers honors the casualties of the First World Way with a universal message.
Kastalsky began work on this massive work in 1914 and completed it in 1917 when Russia withdrew from the war. Only part of the requiem was performed during Kastalsky’s lifetime. The new Soviet state suppressed all forms of religious expression — including requiems.
The world premiere of the complete work occurred a century later, during the Centennial of the First World War. Kastalsky’s work is both ambitious and massive — and it works on every level.
He wrote that the music depicts a memorial ceremony with representatives from Russia and her allies — France, Britain, and Serbia. Kataslky used liturgical music and the native language of each country to depict the representatives approaching the memorial to lay their wreaths.
Kastalsky was a student of Tchaikovsky. His orchestrations are rich and evocative. The harmonies underscore the power of the words and sustain the reverent mood throughout the 64-minute work.
And what a collection of artists! The assembled choir includes the Clarion Choir, which specializes in Slavonic repertoire, and the Saint Tikhon Choir, the choir of American’s oldest Orthodox Christian monastery. There’s also the Cathedral Choral Society of the Washington National Cathedral; and the Kansas City Chorale, which won Grammys for their recordings of Grechinov’s Passion Week and Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil.
The Orchestra of St. Lukes’ is directed by Leonard Slatkin. And this live recording in the National Cathedral was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, winner of multiple Grammys for choral and orchestral recordings.
The singing is simply flawless. And there’s a luminous quality to the blended voices that reinforces the spirituality of the music. The sound of the voices and instruments filling the vaulted space of the cathedral is incredibly beautiful. And the performances deliver time and again. Each country’s religious expression sounds true and authentic, each conveying deep emotion.
This is indeed the epitome of a major release.
Alexander Kastalsky: Requiem for Fallen Brothers
Anna Dennis, soprano; Joseph Beutel, bass-baritone
Cathedral Choral Society; the Clarion Choir; the Saint Tikhon Choir; Kansas City Chorale
Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Leonard Slatkin, conductor