After a gap of four years since their last Rosyth concert, the visit of the Voskresenije Choir (their name means Resurrection in Russian) from St Petersburg had been eagerly anticipated since it was first announced as a St Margaret’s contribution to the Methodist Church Centenary programme.
Those of us who had heard the choir at St Serf’s, Burntisland, the previous evening knew that their 18 November concert would be something special, and indeed it was. It’s not every day that visitors get a standing ovation and sing two encores!
Apart from the basso profundo, the singers that arrived were new to Rosyth, the choir being a vehicle for talent emerging from the St Petersburg Conservatory of Music. So they had youth on their side – one tenor was just 21 – and possessed some splendid operatically-trained voices. Our loop system was not needed for the performance …
A setting by Bortniansky, one of Beethoven’s Russian contemporaries, had an almost Baroque flavour, but otherwise the pieces of sacred music in the first part of the concert came from composers such as Rachmaninov, whose working lives spanned the period 1890 to 1940. Nevertheless, there was considerable variety in style and interpretation, and in the solo opportunities that much of the music provided.
Unfortunately, Ganna Zhivaeva, the soprano whose excellent English enabled her to introduce the choir, wasn’t vocally fit enough to perform her intended solo Ave Maria, so the programme was rearranged to include Chesnokov’s “Cast me not off in the time of old age”. This provided an opportunity for Anatoly Artamonov, the choir’s basso profundo, to give us more of his amazing low notes – a whole octave below the normal bass range. Although 73, Anatoly is almost as energetic as the rest of the choir, and definitely not “cast off” on account of his age!
In the second half, the choir ladies added brightly coloured shawls to their black tops, and the tone was altogether lighter. We enjoyed seven Russian folk songs, plus the very special Voskresenije interpretation of “Those were the days”, and the final programmed item and second encore both featured a wonderful high tenor.
To quote Hebrews 11:32: “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of …” If you missed the concert, we’re sorry for you. But don’t despair, because Voskresenije are planning to be in Dunfermline on Sunday 19 November 2017. Book the date now!