Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: De Profundis – Compositions for orchestra & choir / Russian Nat’l Orchestra; Moscow Synodal Choir; Alfeyev

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Noted theologian, church historian, author and Archbishop, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev is among the most performed Russian composers working today. Born in 1966, Hilarion Alfeyev studied at the Moscow State Conservatory. In 1987, he was ordained a priest, later to become an Archbishop, and in 2010, was elevated to Metropolitan (in the Russian Orthodox Church, a 'Metropolitan' presides over the governing council of Bishops for a given church province or region). This Pentatone Super Audio CD release contains a selection of both sacred music and concert pieces by Hilarion Alfeyev performed by the Russian National Orchestra, the Moscow Synodal Choir and soprano soloist Svetlana Kasyan with Metropolitan Alfeyev on the podium.

Hilarion Alfeyev's best known and most widely performed works are his St. Matthew Passion and the Christmas Oratorio, written in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Five smaller scale pieces make up this program, each composed between 2008 and 2012. There are two liturgical works for chorus and orchestra, Stabat Mater and De profundis. The three remaining are non-liturgical pieces, Canciones de la muerte for soprano and orchestra and two purely orchestral works, Concerto grosso and Fugue on the B-A-C-H Motif.

Although influences of modern musical techniques are evident throughout, what is most striking about Alfeyev's music is its neo-Baroque styling, and how every measure conveys a profound religiosity. He writes in a lyrical, polyphonic style characterized by simplicity and an economy of thematic material. It sounds minimalistic at times, but is not without impressive, dramatic culminations of sound. His orchestration is vibrant and effective. Although the music is insistently evocative of the Baroque, the palette of colors he employs is often foreign to it: prominent solo lines for clarinet, trombone, trumpet, saxophone and tuba, as well as colorful percussive effects of chimes, bass drum, cymbals and gong, betray the composer’s cosmopolitan, 21st-century education.

There are two examples from the album on offer here. First is the opening Adagio molto. Allegro of the Concerto grosso for string orchestra and harpsichord and second is Super Flumina Babylonis for chorus and orchestra from De profundis. Like these selections, all of the music on the album is approachable and easy to enjoy. Top rate performances and the excellent sonics we've come to expect from Pentatone round out a truly original release.


Hilarion (Alfeyev) - The Passion According To St. Matthew