Orthodox Christmas and Other Russian Exports

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Sunday, January 05, 2014

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, in Snow (Flickr)

For many people, Christmas begins on December 25 and ends 12 days later with the festival of the Three Kings. But on the Russian Orthodox calendar, Christmas is just about to begin on January 7. On this episode of the Choral Mix, Kent Tritle presents an hour of music for Orthodox Christmas and other Russian exports.

We hear Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, Bortniansky’s angelic hymn, Kheruvimskie pesni, sacred works by Pavel Chesnokov and more. The cliche about Russia at this time of year is probably true: the Russian winter is harsh. The music that grew from that harsh environment can convey a real sense of desolation and unearthly calm, but there’s also a warmth and a joy to it that lights up the holiday.



Rachmininov, Sergei: Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op. 31

Slava Ottsu (Glory be to the Father)

Tebye Poyem (We Hymn Thee)

Kansas City Chorale, Charles Bruffy

Nimbus 5497/98



Chesnokov, Pavel: Sacred Choral Works, Op 43:

No. 1 Presvyataya bogoroditse (Blessed Virgin Mary)

No. 3 Miloserdiya dveri otvertzi nam (Mercy opened the door)

No. 4 Ne umolchim nikogda, Bogorodiste (Keep not silence, Virgin Mary)

St. Petersburg Chamber Choir

Nikolai Korniev, Conductor

Philips 289 454 616-2



Arvo Part: Rejoice, O Virgin

Kastalsky, Alexander: Shepherds of Bethlehem

Traditional Ukrainian carol (Arranger: Stetsenko, Kyrylo): The Angels Exclaimed

Traditional Ukrainian carol (Arranger: Stetsenko, Kyrylo): A New Joy


Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Paul Hillier, Conductor

Harmonia Mundi 907410



Gretchaninoff, Alexander: Glory/Only Begotten Son

Chesnokov, Pavel: Cherubic Hymn

Sviridov, Georgy: A Wondrous Birth

Sviridov, Georgy: Christmas Troparion


Craig Hella Johnson, Conductor

Harmonia Mundi C122



Bortniansky, Dmitry: Kheruvimskie pesni (Cherubic Hymns) No. 7 of 7.

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Paul Hillier, Conductor

Harmonia Mundi HMU 907318



Gretchaninov, Alexander:

We praise the mother of God

Moscow State Academic Choir, Moscow State Choir, Musica Sacra

Andrej Koshewnikow, Conductor

K&K Verlagsanstalt KuK 23



Rachmoninov, Sergei:

Bogoroditse Dyevo (Rejoice O Ye Virgins)

Velichit dusha moya Ghospoda (Magnificat)

Choir of St Ignatius Loyola

Kent Tritle, Conductor

AMDG Recordings


Comments [6]

Constantine from New York

Not all Orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar. The Greek Orthodox church, for example, now follows the Gregorian calendar, at least so far as Christmas is concerned. (Easter is something else again, but there are other complications there.)

Jan. 06 2014 04:01 PM
Brunnhilde from nyc

Christine, get a hold of yourself. Thank you WQXR for acknowledging the beautiful Russian/Ukrainian/Greek/Orthodox music and holiday.We never hear this music. Thank you.

Jan. 06 2014 01:08 PM
Christine Syzonenko

Many Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar for Christmas, not just the Russian Orthodox. Your headline is most offensive to me, a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian, and I'm sure to many others. You list mostly religious music, rather than Christmas music, as suggested by the headline. Last but not least, Bortniansky was not Russian, but Ukrainian.

Jan. 06 2014 08:03 AM
David Adrian from Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Detroit, Michigan

Point of clarification: Like all Christians, Russian Orthodox and other "Old Calendar" Orthodox Christians celebrate the Nativity (Christmas) on December 25 but on the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar. December 25 on the Julian calendar corresponds to January 7 on the Gregorian.

Jan. 05 2014 10:11 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

May the Russian Christian Orthodox community have a wonderful Christmas, and may there soon be a reconciliation between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. The tradition music form the Russian Orthodox community is stunning and beautiful and should be enjoyed through the world. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 05 2014 12:46 PM
Gary Ekman from Turtle Bay/Manhattan/NYC

Chesnokov is a revelation, never heard of him before. Kent's remarks about "choral breathing" (almost never breaking a phrase to breathe so the chorus's breathing is undetectable) and how it contributes to the unearthly, peaceful sound are interesting.

Jan. 05 2014 07:28 AM

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