They do things differently in Russia. The Orthodox Christmas is not celebrated until 7 January, due to the late switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. On Christmas Eve people get in the mood for the festive holidays with long worship services in ornately decorated churches, with Orthodox chants and candlelight processions. Anyone who wants to be enchanted by the mystical sounds of Russian choirs does not have to travel to Moscow or St Petersburg, however, because the chorus of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre is appearing in the Chamber Music Hall, conducted by its long-time artistic director Valery Borisov.
On the programme is Christmas choral music from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, including the hymn “God With Us”, in which Vassily Sinoviev celebrated the birth of Christ in radiant tones. Pavel Chesnokov, who wrote more than 400 sacred choral works, is one of the most important composers of Russian Orthodox church music. He knew Sergei Rachmaninov, and selections from Rachmaninov’s late Romantic vesper cycle All-Night Vigil will also be heard.
Listeners can look forward to several skilfully set mass chants from Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, with which the composer breathed new life into Russian Orthodox church music, which had grown a little stale during the 19th century. Newer works are also on the programme, however, including Christmas choruses from the incidental music to Aleksey Tolstoy’s drama Czar Fyodor Ioannovich, composed by Shostakovich’s student Georgy Sviridov in 1973.