Previously published on August 26
The apt sun-goeth-down (or dawning) cover image reports artists and repertoire. The following publicity goes further: “Alexander Kastalsky was a student of Tchaikovsky and a mentor to Rachmaninov, becoming director of the Moscow Synodal School until the Bolshevik regime banned all sacred music, including the extraordinary Requiem for Fallen Brothers which consequently lay forgotten for over a century. The Requiem is a rich and varied mosaic that honours those who perished in the First World War, poignantly combining Orthodox and Gregorian chant with hymns from the allied nations, even including Rock of Ages. This unprecedented and peerless monument to those who made the ultimate sacrifice was acclaimed on its 1917 premiere as a ‘uniquely Russian requiem that… gave musical voice to the tears of many nations’.”
Recorded on 21 October 2018 in the ideally spacious and resonant yet detail- & dynamic-sympathetic and impactful acoustic of Washington National Cathedral, Washington D.C., Kastalsky’s Requiem, which sets multi-lingual texts (all accommodated together with translations in Naxos’s booklet), lasts here sixty-four minutes and has seventeen movements.
Nothing then outstays its welcome (although some settings could be longer, to advantage) and together these various sections add up to a work of compassion, emotion, intimacy and splendour, etherealness and depth of feeling – moving and thrilling – Slavic in expression as befits its composer, chimes of different hues, not least church bells, affirming his Russian psyche, yet universal in its communication. Listen out for the ‘Funeral March’ from Chopin’s B-flat minor Piano Sonata and the Boris Godunov-like correspondences at the beginning of the ‘Requiem aeternam’. The work’s very end is blazingly uplifting, reminding of the conclusion of Alexander Nevsky, save Kastalsky beat Prokofiev to it, whether film score or cantata.
Kastalsky’s Requiem is a real find, then, too long unheard and deserving of the wide dissemination that this release now offers, especially in this dedicated and compelling performance under Leonard Slatkin’s galvanising leadership – available from August 28 on Naxos 8.574245 in sound quality that seems to faithfully report the venue and the performers’ placements within it.