The beautiful monumental choral work ‘Passion Week’ by Alexander Gretchaninov (1864–1956) is rarely heard in the churches and concert halls of the world. In Riga, it was performed again after a long interval in August 2015 when the Latvija State Choir was conducted by the artistic director of the Yaroslavia capella from Yaroslavl, Professor of Choral Conducting at the Moscow Conservatory Vladimir Kontarev. The Latvija Choir and the Russian Maestro have been connected by ties of friendship for many years now, and last year’s concert demonstrated that Gretchaninov’s music is wonderfully beautiful and Kontarev is an outstanding interpreter of Orthodox liturgical music.
Vladimir Kontarev says: ‘In my opinion, the two greatest examples of Russian sacred music of all time are Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vespers’ and Gretchaninov’s ‘Passion Week’. Furthermore, Gretchaninov’s opus was written four years earlier than Rachmaninoff’s masterpiece.’
Alexander Gretchaninov is one of the greatest and most underrated composers of Russian sacred music. Gretchaninov’s work was not particularly appreciated by contemporary fellow composers; however, the general public had quite a liking for his romances and sacred pieces. Besides, Gretchaninov was one of the very few composers who also wrote for children, and there is always a great shortage of good quality children’s music in any country of the world.
Written in 1912, ‘Passion Week’ deals with the most significant time in the church year, the Holy Week, and is essentially a concert piece, not a liturgical opus. Many music historians consider it the ultimate pinnacle of Gretchaninov’s oeuvre.
Latvija State Choir
Conductor Vladimir Kontarev
Programme: Alexander Gretchaninov, ‘Passion Week