If we may gauge the relative popularity of a musical work among today's audiences by its availability in recorded form, then it is safe to say that the sacred works of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky have undergone somewhat of a revival in the last several years. Only a few years ago, Schwann Opus showed but one listing for Tchaikovsky's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, op. 41, and none at all for either the All-Night Vigil, op. 52, or the Nine Sacred Choruses (1884-85) (6, no. 1 [winter 1994-95]: 604-13). Just a few years later, this number had jumped to six listings for the Liturgy, three for the Vigil (referred to as "Vespers"), and five for the Sacred Choruses (10, no. 1 [winter 1998-99]: 864-73). Indeed, Slavic sacred music of all kinds seems to be flourishing. While most evidence of this renaissance is in recorded form, new printed editions are appearing as well. The series Monuments of Russian Sacred Music, edited by Vladimir Morosan, has begun to make a major impact on the complete dearth of high-quality ed itions previously available in the West. [For more background on the series, see the review of vol. 1 in Notes 50 (1994): 1177-78.--Ed.]
With thirteen projected subseries encompassing at least forty-five volumes, Monuments of Russian Sacred Music is easily the most ambitious undertaking of its kind in this genre. Seven of the volumes (released as four) are already available, with another four scheduled for publication in the near future. All of the currently available volumes share several physical and conceptual characteristics, and there is no reason to believe that future releases will abandon these practices. The level of scholarship and scholarly cooperation demonstrated in these volumes is very impressive. Although such standards have become commonplace in the collected editions and monuments we regularly use in our work, they have been sadly lacking from the field of Slavic sacred music. Moreover, all the editions contain introductory essays and numerous appendixes. These invaluable additions, which are presented in both English and Russian and whose lengths range from a few well-chosen paragraphs to more than thirty pages, set the con text for the editions themselves by explaining key historical and liturgical points. The print, paper, and especially the binding also deserve comment. In this age of "perfect binding" and of taped-together photocopies of composers manuscripts being sold as published editions, it is a pleasure to hold a bound scholarly volume of music that still meets the needs of the performer.
Taking a closer look at the Tchaikovsky volume, the user quickly recognizes the general look and feel of the series and finds many of the features discussed above. In addition to his own historico-analytical essay "The Sacred Choral Works of Peter Tchaikovsky," Morosan has included an essay by Paul Meyendorff entitled simply "Russian Liturgical Worship." Meyendorff's article provides a historical sketch of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as well as an informative overview of the structure of the two most important Orthodox services, the Liturgy and the All-Night Vigil. His essay covers much ground presented earlier by this reviewer (Taras Pavlovsky, "Slavic Church Music: Issues in Cataloging," Fontes artis musicae 44 : 248-65) but provides substantially greater historical depth. He also extends his coverage to include the entire All-Night Vigil service. This well-written introductory work will be of great interest to any choral director familiar with the genre and an absolute necessity for the newco mer. Just one caveat: Meyendorff's continuing use of the term "Russian" to describe anything having to do with the medieval state known as Kyivan Rus' is both annoying and historically inaccurate.
Morosan's own essay follows Meyendorif's. Drawing heavily on Tchaikovsky's correspondence, its opening pages provide fascinating insight into the composer's psyche, most specifically his motives for composing sacred music. The bulk of the essay, however, presents extensive analytical notes on each of the pieces in the edition. This is where Morosan really shines. His observations range from historical and purely liturgical issues through those concerned with textual analysis or performance practice. In all cases, Morosans goal is to educate the reader as much as possible about the music at hand, regardless of the reader's initial level of knowledge--and he succeeds admirably.
A secondary goal of these notes is to provide performance instructions for a contemporary concert presentation of this music outside its original liturgical setting. These notes are useful even for the veteran liturgist, and absolutely mandatory for the nonspecialist. They are thoughtfully presented, and for the most part right on target. Most often they suggest one specific course of action, omitting one selection or shortening another. Occasionally, options arc offered. To solve a particularly difficult tonal transition created by one of his suggested omissions, Morosan has even proposed transposing twelve measures of music up a whole step (p. xcv n. 15). Ironically, there is an entire section of appendix 1 ("Performance Context and Liturgical Exclamations [Ekphoneses]"), as well as Morosan's suggested schemes for concert performances of both the Liturgy and the All-Night Vigil, that make understanding the more specific instructions found in the introductory essay much easier. Unfortunately, they are buried in the section labeled only "Critical Notes" in the table of contents, and no reference is made to their existence in the introductory notes. Ultimately, whether choral directors choose to follow Morosan's suggestions or to create their own schemes, it is difficult to imagine a performance or recording that would not benefit from most of them.
Other details make the edition valuable as well. In addition to the dual-alphabet text (Church Slavonic in both Cyrillic and Roman characters) set interlinearly for each staff of the score, complete texts of all the works are set just before the music, where they appear as romanized Slavonic with English translations. This is especially important for two reasons. First, because the "Ordinary" of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has so many minutiae, virtually every composer who set it used a slightly different version of the text. The version presented here corresponds exactly to what Tchaikovsky set. The second reason is much more practical: while any skilled American or non-Slavic European choir would have little difficulty reading most of this music on a neutral vowel, they are likely to require considerable work to get a reasonably clean declamation of the text. Having the text available in this form greatly facilitates the rehearsal process.
Similarly useful are the materials appended after the scores. The chant sources in appendixes 6 and 7 provide insight into Tchaikovsky's compositional techniques, while Morosan's suggested ekphonetic exclamations for the Liturgy in appendix 5 are a godsend for the nonspecialist. Appendix 4 contains a variant form of the "Otche nash" ("Our Father") from the Liturgy, while appendixes 2 and 3 contain two works on religious, but not sacred, texts. The second of these, "Legenda" ("The Legend"), is an interesting little jewel. Composed in 1853 for voice and piano, it appeared that same year as No. 5 of the set 16 Songs for Children, op. 54. Tchaikovsky later orchestrated "Legenda" and still later set it for four voices a cappella, the version we have here. The melody bears such a striking resemblance to the Andante con moto of Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony that it makes me wonder if Tchaikovsky had ever traveled to Rome himself or somehow heard the song of the marching pilgrims that is said to have inspired Mendel ssohn fifty-one years earlier.
Having previously commented upon the high physical and editorial quality of the series as a whole, it bears mentioning that several mechanical errors have nevertheless crept into the Tchaikovsky edition. The table of contents provides incorrect pagination for the last three musical selections, and there is a numbering error in 2V ("Lord Have Mercy," etc.) of the All-Night Vigil. Some editorial irregularities are noticeable as well. Morosan states in his editorial procedures, for instance, that "where the slurs in the original piano reductions merely reproduce those found in the vocal parts, they have been omitted. Only those slurs that impart additional information about phrasing have been retained in the piano reduction" (p. 405). While this stated principle is carefully followed in most parts of the Liturgy and the Vigil, it was obviously not followed so closely in the Sacred Choruses. There, many slurs from the vocal parts (which merely indicate text underlay, rather than phrasing) have been reproduced in the piano reduction.
More troubling is the inconsistent treatment of material either added to or not carried forward from the original editions. At 2Vd (p. 140) of the Vigil, for example, Morosan has supplied a well-written note explaining the differences in the text of the Liturgy between Tchaikovsky's time, when the emperor was commemorated during this litany, and current practice. On the other hand, Tchaikovsky's own explanatory note as to the apparent nonjuxtaposition of strong musical and textual accents at m. 4 [i.e., 5] of the "Bog Ghospod'" in tone 1 (Moscow: Jurgenson, 1883; reprint, New York: Kalmus, [1974?], 44), has
been omitted without comment. Most troubling of all is Morosan's statement in the critical notes for both the Vigil and the Sacred Choruses that "several misprints in the musical text have been corrected without comment" (p. 404). A catchall phrase like this is simply unacceptable in a scholarly edition today. As James Grier so aptly notes, "not all editors are as frank with their audience as they might be. How frequent is the remark, 'Obvious errors are silently corrected.' Obvious to whom? And corrected in what way?" (The Critical Editing of Music: History, Method, and Practice [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996], 8). The fact that this old saw is used by an editor of Morosan's stature makes its appearance even more surprising.
Its few shortcomings notwithstanding, this volume of Tchaikovsky's sacred music, like others in the series, will be a welcome addition to the shelves of any choral director's collection. From a broader perspective as well, and especially inasmuch as one of the stated goals of Monuments of Russian Sacred Music is the "preservation and dissemination of a vast musical tradition," this volume is highly recommended to all music libraries, as well as to music collections in academic libraries that support undergraduate or higher programs in music.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2000|
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