NEW YORK, NY—On August 28, Naxos releases the world-premiere recording of Alexander Kastalsky’s REQUIEM [Naxos 8.574245], in its complete and revised, 17-movement version for orchestra, choir, and soloists. The album—which was recorded live in Washington’s National Cathedral on October 21, 2018, during a performance commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armistice—features the combined forces of the Cathedral Choral Society; two-time Grammy®-nominated Clarion Choir (Steven Fox, artistic director of choirs); Saint Tikhon Choir; the Grammy®-winning Kansas City Chorale (Charles Bruffy, artistic director); with soloists, soprano Anna Denis and bass-baritone Joseph Beutel, accompanied by the Grammy®-winning Orchestra of St. Luke’s, led by Grammy®-winning conductor Leonard Slatkin. This recording is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed and Grammy®-nominated Alexander KASTALSKY: Memory Eternal [Naxos 8.573889], which featured the Clarion Choir led by Steven Fox.
Alexander Kastalsky (1856-1926) was a seminal figure in the national musical landscape of Russia during the first two decades of the 20th century. He was a student of Tchaikovsky and a mentor to Rachmaninoff, becoming the director of the Moscow Synodal School until the Bolshevik regime banned all sacred music, including his Requiem for Fallen Brothers, which lay forgotten for over a century.
Kastalsky began planning the Requiem during the summer of 1914. He conceived it “as a large-scale musical collage that would combine prayers for the dead drawn from the various liturgical traditions of the Allies – Orthodox Russia and Serbia, Roman Catholic France and Italy, and Anglican Britain.” By late 1915, the composer had completed his first draft, scored for chorus and organ and consisting of twelve movements. A fourteen-movement version was completed in 1916, with the premiere taking place in Petrograd on January 7, 1917 (32 days before the beginning of the Russian Revolution and 67 days prior to the abdication of the Czar). As the war raged and more joined the fight, Kastalsky added three additional movements commemorating the soldiers of America, Japan, and India. This final version would never be performed in its entirety because of the prohibition of performances of sacred music after the rise of Communism.
Kastalsky describes it thus: “Around the spot where the worship service is taking place, units of Allied armies are gathered; funereal chants of different nations are heard intermittently, at times Russian, at times Catholic, now Serbian, now English; one language supplants another; from time to time trumpet calls of different armies are heard, along with drum beats, and the sound of artillery; in the distance one can hear the sobs and lamentations of the widows and mothers who have lost their sons; from the side of the Asian armies one hears strains of Japanese and Hindu melodies. As ‘Memory eternal’ is intoned, the military bands join in, one hears artillery salutes, and the music takes on the bright colors glorifying the fallen heroes.”