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19th and 20th Century Russian Secular Choral Music

Anton Arensky, Cesar Cui, Dargomyzhsky, Sergei Ekimov, Falik, Gavrilin, Kalinnikov, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Rom, Salmanov, Sergei IVanovich Taneyev, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Houston Chamber Choir

Sopranos - Penelope Kershaw, Danielle Laird, Kelli Mikeska, Laura Puzio, Laurie Robertson, Lynelle Rowley, Angela Slaughter, Brandi Troxel

Altos - Gerald Caliendo, Brenda Coker, Kammi Estelle, Gerrod Pagenkopf, Marianna Parnas-Simpson, Robyn Rutland-Coleman

Tenors - Daniel Buchanan, Thomas Coker, Cody Parrott, Jeffrey Ragsdale, Gregory Ristow, Michael Walsh, Jason Watt

Basses - Mitchell Galloway-Edgar, Felipe Gasper, Andrew Hill, David Keck, Randall Murrow, Eduardo Tercero, Jeffrey van Hal, Randolph Wagner



“these are accomplished performances of extremely scarce repertoire that should delight all classical music lovers, and are heartily recommended.”
James Altena, Fanfare [July/August 2013]
"Ravishing is right. The choir's idiomatic pronunciation, smooth ensemble work and generally excellent intonation serve the music with just the right amount of style and class."
Laurence Vittes, Gramophone [April 2010]
"...the music is extraordinary. This ambitious, carefully executed recording mines a broad range of a cappella styles and moods... BUY."
[ * * * * ] Time Out Chicago [January 21-27, 2010]
"A well-sung disc by the Houston Chamber Choir, under Robert Simpson ... A fine survey."
Turok's Choice [March 2010]
"This is a wonderful anthology on several counts. First, the music is simply glorious. The Motherland’s stunning natural landscape is recalled in such images as Alexander Dargomyzhsky’s evocation of a dark, windwhipped winter scene (‘The Storm has Wrapped the Sky in Darkness’), Sergei Taneyev’s exquisite tone painting of a sunset progressing from dusk to darkness (‘Behold, the Shadows Have Fallen’), and ‘Elegy’ by Viktor Kalinnikov (brother of the symphonist), which describes the glow of Venus in the Russian sky. What’s more, most of this music arrived in Houston after some prospecting in the library of the St Petersburg Conservatory. I had never heard a note of it before and suspect most of you haven’t either. Expect a real sense of discovery as you listen. The singing is top-of-the-line, with all the requisite elements coming together in gracious service to this unfamiliar fare. I’m especially impressed by the changes of vocal character. Whether the singers are darkening for Rachmaninoff or catching the fun of Valery Gavrilin’s delightful ‘Nonsense’, nothing is routine, nothing sounds the same. Translations and notes are included, clinching the deal on a distinguished, aptly titled release."
American Record Guide [January / February 2010]
"...a pleasure to listen to... The Dargomyzhsky piece is wonderful, and shows the choir at its very best. Each part is clear in the chords and the balance between parts is near ideal. We hear how well each voice is integrated in the second Tchaikovsky piece, which begins with a unison tenor statement answered by the whole choir. The absolutely unified tenor section is wonderful to hear and it moves seamlessly into and out of the rest of the choir. This coherence of part is essential to the success of the Alexander Rom’s Vocalise. The one piece that departs in any measure from the rest of the program is the delightful nonsense song at the end by Valery Gavrilin, a terrific concert-closer... The 30 voices of the relatively new Houston Chamber Choir make some wonderful...noises. Their minimal vibrato gives them a clean sound... elegantly sung and a pleasure to listen to. The recording quality is excellent. Recommended for those who simply want to hear good choral singing."
Fanfare [January / February 2010]
"the internationally acclaimed Houston Chamber Choir...have a beautiful blend and the performances are well-paced and attuned to the mood of the poetry and its setting in every one of these treasurable songs."
Phil Muse, Audio Club of Atlanta [February 2010]
"The 30 voices of the relatively new Houston Chamber Choir make some wonderful...noises. Their minimal vibrato gives them a clean sound... This music is elegantly sung and a pleasure to listen to. The recording quality is excellent. Recommended for those who simply want to hear good choral singing."
Alan Swanson, Choir and Loft [January 2010]
"a sparkling new CD that showcases the little-known area of Russian secular choral music... many of the composers who are best known for their sacred choral works, e.g. Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Kalinnikov, and others, wrote lovely secular part-songs as well, as this CD demonstrates... Finally, the CD taps the unexplored wealth of Soviet-era choral songs (represented by Salmanov, Falik, and Gavrilin), written during a time when sacred music was severely suppressed... The Houston Chamber Choir's achievement is formidable, reflecting a depth of exploration and an intelligent interpretation of a foreign culture's choral repertoire that clearly demonstrates a great deal of love and enthusiasm on the part of the director and his singers. The musically convincing results offer a great reward both to the performers and the listener. To choral conductors, this CD will offer a wealth of programming ideas, while to lovers of beautiful, first-rate choral singing, it will provide a most enjoyable and enduring listening experience."
Musica Russia [July 2009]
Choral singing in Russia seems to have stemmed from both Eastern and Western European sources, evolving from Byzantine sacred monody into Russian znanymenïy chant following the adoption of Christianity in 988, and through the assimilation of Western style sacred partsinging that came from Poland and Ukraine in the mid-17th century. On the secular side of the musical ledger, devilish pictorial representations of skomorokhi suggest that Russian counterparts to medieval jongleurs roamed the land and were employed at the court of Ivan the Terrible by the mid-16th century. But the firm establishment of secular part-singing in Russia mainly coincided with the growth of Russian nationalism in music, led by its early 19th-century composers, notably Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) and Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-1869) and the rise of major poets, Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) and Alexei Tolstoy (1817-1875). This recorded treasury of Russian part-song traces their work and that of their descendants over the span of a century. Much of the music was gleaned from the St. Petersburg Conservatory library and was first performed in America by the Houston Chamber Choir in late October 2007.

ROBERT SIMPSON is founding Artistic Director of the Houston Chamber Choir. He also serves as Organist-Choirmaster at Houston ’s historic Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) and Lecturer of Church Music at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University . Following graduation with honors from Brown University and the School of Sacred Music, Union Theological Seminary, he was a student at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne , Germany for two years. He undertook further extended study in Stockholm , Sweden with Eric Ericsson and Gustaf Sjorkvist. The Houston Chamber Choir has toured under his direction in the United States , Europe and Mexico and been heard on CBS and ABC Television, and American Public Radio. 

Described by Peter Phillips as “one of this country’s leading ensembles,” the HOUSTON CHAMBER CHOIR was founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Robert Simpson. This professional ensemble has appeared in Mexico City with the Orquestra del Nuevo Mundo and traveled to Wales where it won honors at the International Choral Festival in Llangollen. The Houston Chamber Choir has performed at national and regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America , and the Texas Choral Directors Association. At home it has brought Houston audiences Baroque masterpieces with period instruments, jazz with Dave Brubeck and contemporary music under the direction of noted Dutch conductor Reinbert de Leeuw. Its commissions and premieres include David Ashley White’s “The Blue Estuaries” and “Messages to Myself“ by Christopher Theofanidis along with works by Thomas Conroy, Jefferson Todd Frazier and Michael Horvit. The National Endowment for the Arts has recognized the Chamber Choir’s work, most recently with a grant to host an American Masterpieces Choral Festival. The Choir’s compact disc catalogue includes “The Blue Estuaries” featuring works by David Ashley White, Robert Young and Aaron Copland. [ www.HoustonChamberChoir.org ]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Nocturne; The Upas Tree

César CUI (1835-1918)
Hidden Beauty

Alexander DARGOMYZHSKY (1813-1869)
The Storm Has Wrapped The Sky In Darkness

Sergei EKIMOV (B.1974)

Yuri FALIK (b.1936)
Unknown Lady

Valery GAVRILIN (1939-1999)
Nonsense (From Chimes)

Viktor KALINNIKOV (1870-1927)
The Skylark; Elegy

Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Panteley The Healer

Alexander ROM (b.1952)

Vadim SALMANOV (1912-1978)

Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
The Ruins Of The Tower; Evening; Behold, Shadows Have Fallen

Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Golden Cloud; The Nightingale

MSR Classics
Contemporary Music for Chamber Choir HOUSTON …

for 5 Soloists, Choir and Strings, Op.12 HOUSTON …