Friday, February 18, 2011

Does the Devil have the best tunes?

'The history of the church is the history of cruelties and horror... Every church with its doctrines of redemption and salvation, above all the Orthodox Faith with its idolatory, excludes the doctrine of Christ' - from Leo Tolstoy's classic of Christian Anarchism The Kingdom of God is Within You
If Tolstoy was right and the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Devil reincarnate then the Devil definitely has the best tunes. Sergei Rachmaninov's 1915 setting of the All-Night Vigil is justly celebrated but that of Alexander Grechaninov, composed three years before Rachmaninov's, is unjustly neglected. But perhaps that will change, Grechaninov's All-Night Vigil featured here in a 2006 post about a Brilliant Classics recording and Hyperion has now re-released an interpretation by the Holst Singers directed by Stephen Layton on a budget CD. Among other important works by Grechaninov (1864-1956) is his Missa oecumenica (Universal Mass) which was written in 1936 and anticipated the syncretic works of John Tavener, Philip Glass and others by more than half a century. Stephen Layton is something of a all-night specialist (no comments please) as he also directed the recording of John Tavener's syncretic All-Night Vigil The Veil of the Temple that featured in my recent epically convoluted Gnostic path. The problem is these paths keep getting diverted and the following syncretic sentiments from conductor Vladimir Jurowski are a sure-fire invitation to convolution:
'If you read Tolstoy, a lot of his writings coincide with Buddhist thought, and I think the most Buddhist aspect of Russian culture is its passivity. Now, Shostakovich cannot be counted as passive, but this passage in the Sixth Symphony is completely static. I discovered the Tao Te King of Lao Tse about five years ago. It's one of the most important books in the history of mankind. We were never able to have a Bible at home, but this was 1987, so Gorbachev's glasnost was beginning to have its effects, and there were unofficial booksellers on the streets. It was a Bible in Russian, and I still have it. My parents thought I was losing my mind. The way yoga changes your perception of the world is amazing. It's another kind of ecstatic experience.'
But back to the current path; if you want another kind of ecstatic experience and are in travelling distance of Cambridge, UK do not miss the performance of Grechaninov's masterpiece Passion Week in the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs by the Cambridge Chorale on March 12. If you cannot get to Cambridge read about Passion Week here.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. All CDs mentioned were bought at retail. I have no connction with the Cambridge Chorale and will, sadly, be out of the country on March 12. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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