ROCOR – MP- November 2014
On Sunday, November 16, 2014, the Synodal Choir of New York performed a concert of liturgical and secular music to honor the memory of Alexander Tikhonovich Gretchaninoff on the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great composer. The first part of the performance, under the direction of Peter Fekula, included nine compositions from all four of Gretchaninoff’s Liturgies, and from his vigils, including his cycle of music for Passion Week. Leading off the second half were three solos by Irina Mozyleva and a duet with Mr Fekula, followed by six folk songs by the full choir. Solos were also sung by Protodeacon Vadim Gan, Olga Ship and Vladimir Shvets.
Alexander Gretchaninoff was born in Moscow on October 13, 1864. He studied at Moscow Conseratory under Anton Arensky and Sergi Taneev, then enrolled in St Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Returning to Moscow, he began to work closely with the Moscow Synodal School. Gretchaninoff is an ideal example of the so-called New Movement in Russian Liturgical music, which centered around the Synodal School. Representatives of this movement sought to distance church music from the Italian and German styles and devote compositions to purely Russian sound on the basis of ancient chants.
Gretchaninoff fled the Soviet Union in 1925 and settled in Paris. In 1939 he moved to New York, where he died on January 4, 1956. His choral music is renowned for its inventiveness, rich sound, rhythmic variation and profound spirituality.