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Two New York choruses collaborate to perform Russian masterpiece
by Mimi S. Daitz for Vocal Area Network
Posted April 30, 2010

Alfred SchnittkeThe Canticum Novum Singers and The Russian Chamber Chorus of New York are joining forces to present one of the great a cappella works of the late 20th-century choral repertoire, Alfred Schnittke's Concerto for Choir. The Schnittke Concerto, coming out of a tradition of Russian choral concerti, is the major work in the concert entitled "Sacred Music in the Soviet Era," to be presented on Saturday, May 15 at 8:00 PM at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, 552 West End Avenue at 87th Street, and on Sunday, May 16 at 3:00 PM, at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church at 73rd Street. Harold Rosenbaum, the conductor of The Canticum Novum Singers, will lead the Schnittke Concerto at the Saturday performance; Nikolai Kachanov, director of The Russian Chamber Chorus, will conduct it at the Sunday concert.

Written in 1984-85, the Concerto for Choir was premiered in 1986 at Moscow's Pushkin Museum. Schnittke's text came from The Book of Lamentations by the Armenian monk Grigor Narekatsi (951-1003), which was translated into Russian by Naum Grebnev. The 40-minute work is divided into four movements, which, according to Russian musicologist Dmitri Smirnov, "reflect the four different subdivisions and themes of Narekatsi's chapter: (I) the rapturous praise and appeal to God; (II) the list of those whom the lamentations might be expected to reach; (III) the hope of redemption and deliveranc