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Sveshnikov State Russian Choir (Choir)

The Russian State Choir, the country’s leading choral group, is widely known abroad. It was named after Alexander V.Sveshnikov, its founder and director for more than forty years. “The chorus owes its success to his rich creative experience, the maturity of his vivid talent and his mastery,”—Dmitry D. Shostakovich wrote about Sveshnikov.

A.V.Sveshnikov, an outstanding master in the development of choral art, said that choral singing was a great art that could bring people together and inspire them to happiness: “More than once, my life experience made me think and assert that choral singing is a brilliant possibility to give people access to high music culture.”

Since its early history Russia had been famous for its choral music, and its tradition of the 16th century singers, as well as of the first Russian professional composers N.Kalashnikov, M.Berezovsky, D.Bortnyanski and M.Glinka, has been continued today in choral music written by G.Sviridov, R.Schedrin and other more recent composers whose works the chorus performs. It continues to develop the tradition of Russian classical choral singing, endeavouring to achieve the utmost musical precision, vocal balance and finely chiselled sounds. The Chorus reveals to its audience the mysterious and fascinating aspects of Russia.

The Chorus was founded in 1936, originating from the vocal ensemble of the National Broadcasting Committee. A.V.Sveshnikov, the bearer of the title of the Artist of Merit of the RSFSR, and N.M.Danilin, a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, were assigned the task of organizing and developing the Chorus. From its first days, the USSR State Chorus was a brilliant group of professional singers. Its repertoire included Russian and European choral classics, and arrangements of Russian songs. The Chorus performed works by P.Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dargomyzhsky, Arensky, Taneyev, Mussorgsky, Handel, Beethoven and Berlioz along with many works by more recent composers: Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Muradeli, Shaporin, Khachaturyan et al.

In 1942 the Chorus was renamed The State Chorus of Russian Folksong. Many remarkable arrangements by its director A.V.Sveshnikov were performed in those hard years. Songs of workers, students, peasants, soldiers, miners, that were up to then almost, or completely forgotten songs full of love for their native country and its natural beauties were brought back to life. The Chorus’s concerts had an immense impact upon the spiritual life of the Soviet people and many songs from that time are still in its repertoire.

When the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) was over, the Chorus began its triumphant march arround the world. Its first travel abroad brought it the reputation of the “world‘s best chorus”.

“The Russians have vanquished Berlin for the second time,” wrote the Illustriert magazine. The Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Austrian, Polish, Norwegian and Swedish press published numerous brilliant reviews of the Chorus’s concerts and called its achievements “unprecedented”. The following statement appeared in a Viennese newspaper: “We were carried away by Russian song and though we did not understand the words, we perfectly understood its message.” The Belgian newspaper Metropole published an opinion by a critic: “We are captivated by the choir’s artistic qualities, its amazing discipline, and we are overwhelmed by its tonal purity, by the exactness and clarity of the women’s voices, and the warm timbres of the men’s voices, especially the basses.”

The chorus repertoire was regularly enriched and perfected. The concerts included choral music of well known foreign composers with the purpose of promoting friendship and understanding among peoples. After the Chorus’s performance of Hungarian Psalm by Zoltan Kodaly, he wrote: “I am grateful to your wonderful choir for its marvellous performance of my Psalm in Hungarian.” And here is a recollection of a Japanese journalist: “I almost burst into tears while listening to Lullaby by Itsuki. It was so much like Japanese songs.” The concerts in Japan were a great success: “The Chorus proved that singing, music and art could be a magic thread binding human hearts.” The Chorus performed in Italy, and received recognition in this classic “country of song”. Here is what was written in the Italian press after its concert at La Scala: “The Chorus, strong and plastic, at times sustained and sad, then exultant and solemn, does not only move, but is capable of making a great impression upon the audience.”

From 1980 to 1987, the Chorus was directed by I.G.Agafonnikov, The National Artist of Russia, who maintained the tradition of his predecessors. From 1987 to 1990, V.N.Minin, The National Artist of Russia, was at the head of the Chorus; with music lovers his name is associated with that of the Moscow Chamber Choir.

Since the beginning of its existence, the Chorus has performed more than three thousand pieces of music. Its repertoire is extremely rich and diverse including masterpieces by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Vivaldi, Josquin, Despres, Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso and Antinio Lotti, and more recent choral music by Z.Kodaly, K.Orff, O.Messiaen, M.Theodorakis, et al.

From 1991 to 1995 the Chorus was directed by the outstanding choral conductor E.Tytianko, until his early death in June 1995. Under his guidance the Chorus had several remarkable Russian operas recorded on CD, including among others: “Yudiff” by V.Serov, “The Tzar‘s Bride” and “May Night” by Rimsky-Korsakov and “Aleko” and “Francesca da Rimini” by Rachmaninov.

At present, the Chorus is headed by the famous conductor and the National Artist of Russia, Professor Igor Ivanovich Rayevski. He graduated from the specialized School of Choral Music “A.V.Sveshnikov” and from the State Conservatory of Moscow.

During the past few years the Chorus has travelled on tours to Sweden, China, Greece, Israel, Egypt. Each of its performances during its last three tours in USA—in January 1993, January-February 1994, and February-April 1995—was a brilliant success.

“Grandiose, brilliant and excellent!”; “ was one of the best, probably the best Chorus we have ever heard in our lives.”; “...its timbre, fluidity, density, abundance and agility are amazing”; “...their concert was one of the most beautiful performances ever,” —such are the reactions of the audiences as reported in the American press.

Sveshnikov State Russian Choir official website

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