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RACHMANINOV: All-Night Vigil – London Sym. Chorus/ Simon Halsey – LSO Sing

LSC enters the fray with a release of highly competitive value.

RACHMANINOV: All-Night Vigil, Op. 37 – London Symphony Chorus/ Simon Halsey – LSO Sing multichannel SACD LSO0781, 53:28 [Distr. by Naxos] (6/10/16) *****:

If there is any work of Rachmaninov’s that has benefitted from the surround sound revolution, it is certainly his seminal All-Night Vigil, sometimes incorrectly labeled Vespers. (The piece is actually a compendium of selections from the Orthodox Vespers and Matins services often served together as one.) I think we are now at the point of admitting that no one need sacrifice great sound, meaning SACD or Blu-ray sound, in this work for want of great interpretations. Nearly every Super Audio disc of this piece I have reviewed—around five—offers quality presentations in superior, glorious sound.

So why this one? Honestly, I can’t think of a reason. There are recordings where the all-important basses are given more presence, and spiritually it is hard to forget Rostropovich and his Washington Chorus. The aforementioned basses are nicely present in the Shaw recording (Telarc), but both of these are stereo versions, but all of the surround recordings sport fine choirs with deep, spacious sound. I can only say, with respect to the LSC’s achievement, that they have maintained current standards all around, with a fine, balanced recording of no little emotional content. 2016 is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the London Symphony Chorus (1966), and it has chosen this work to inaugurate a new “LSO Sing” series on the popular and very successful LSO Live label of the London Symphony Orchestra. This performance is conducted by LSO Choral Director Simon Halsey, and he gives no quarter to some of the more famous names with hats already tossed in the ring.

If pressed, I might stick with the Netherlands Radio Choir under Kaspars Putnins on BIS, or maybe the new award-winning reading with Charles Bruffy on Chandos, but it’s tough—this one has a lot to offer. It’s not often that one can throw a dart and be guaranteed an outstanding selection no matter whose recording gets picked. But there it is.

—Steven Ritter

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