Dmitri Hvorostovsky – The Bells of Dawn
Russian Sacred and Folk Songs
The Grand Choir “Masters of Choral Singing”
Lev Kontorovich, conductor
The Bells of Dawn: Overview
Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s interest for the traditional Russian repertoire is very well present in his discography. It counts several collections of Russian music, from folk music (Russian Romances, 1991) to sacred music (Credo, 1996). His albums include both works written by illustrious composers as Georgy Sviridov (Russia Cast Adrift) and popular songs, as in the case of the two recordings featuring to Second World War songs (Where Are You, My Brothers in 1997, and Wait for Me in 2015).
The Bells of Dawn, released in 2014, seems a synthesis of some of Hvorostovsky’s previous albums. It collects sacred and folk songs, some of them already recorded by Hvorostovsky in an earlier stage of his career.
From a general point of view, The Bells of Dawn is a fine and surprising recording. Its sixteen, unaccompanied songs are beautiful gems. Some of them are composed by outstanding composers as Pavel Chesnokov, who wrote more than five hundred choral works, and Georgy Sviridov, one of the leading Russian composers of the 20th century. Not by chance, the title of this album, The Bells of Dawn, is taken from a song composed by him.
The Bells of Dawn: the Performance
Despite the different time of composition of the songs, The Bells of Dawn is a well-balanced recording. The blend between sacred and folk tunes is natural and even inevitable. Sacred music composes the first part of the recording, but there is not gap when the last of sacred song ends and the first folk song begins. Moreover, the Grand Choir “Masters of Choral Singing” creates an evocative and inspiring atmosphere only thanks to its amazing voices.
Hvorostovsky sings with his almost legendary smoothness and easiness. A piece as Sviridov’s The Bells of Dawn would not have had the same incisiveness with a less fine singer. Next to Hvorostovsky’s musicianship, which allows him to sing with elegance and intensity, his extremely clear diction makes possible to understand every single word he sings even to a listener who does not know Russian. It is impossible not to realize immediately the deep sense of praying and faith of Khvalite imya Gospodne, for example. As for the folk songs, the rhythm of Vdol’ po ulitse immediately reveals the character of a delicate traditional song. In all the songs, it seems that Hvorostovsky is intent on telling a story, a sung story with great significance.
Hvorostovsky’s ability to give meaning to the text suddenly reveals the charm of Russian folk and sacred songs. What is particularly valuable about The Bells of Dawn, apart from its intrinsic musical value, is precisely the chance to discover the rich tradition of Russian music.