The music on this recording is entirely based on arrangements of traditional Russian Orthodox ecclesiastical chant. Many of the melodies recorded here will be familiar to our listeners, but some of them – especially the settings by S.V. Smolensky – may be new to many people. In 1904, Stepan Vasilievich Smolensky (1848-1909), a distinguished Russian musicologist and director of the Moscow Synodal School, published a setting of the Panikhida (Memorial Service) for male choir in honor of the tenth anniversary of the repose of Tsar Alexander III. Smolensky based his new arrangements on melodies that were the fruit of his meticulous research into ancient Russian chant, applying to them the modal, and distinctly Russian, harmonic idiom of the late nineteenth century Synodal School composers. The result is an exceedingly beautiful and rich body of hymns for the Panikhida that, to our knowledge, has never before been recorded in English. Clearly, Smolensky’s settings deserve to be better known, and it is our sincere hope that his music – along with all the music on this recording – find a place in the repertoire of American church choirs. With God’s help, printed sheet music of all the settings here, arranged both for male and mixed choir, will be available through St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press in the near future.
-Benedict Sheehan, conductor