The heart and soul of Czarist Russia is captured on this collection. Performed on traditional instruments, these folk songs are a solid addition to any world music collection.
Contains 16 tracks.
It's difficult to be sure given the Legacy label's abominable lack of documentation, but this CD appears to be a composite of two phonograph records recorded sometime in the last 30 years. The first six tracks (about 21 minutes) are a traditional, mixed (male and female) Russian chorus. The next ten tracks (about 33 minutes) are a folk singing group, usually accompanied by an accordion and sometimes also by percussion and/or strummed instrument. (It's impossible even to determine which of the two groups listed on the label comes first.)
Russian chorus, especially mixed chorus, is famous for its great separation of voices, and these groups are not exception, with their heavenly sopranos and otherworldly basses. The tenor soloists in the first group move the listener with the vulnerability of their style there's nothing bluff or brash about them. The arrangements are gorgeous. The single best track would probably be the opener, "Evening Bells," which features a delicately passionate tenor backed by basses imitating the bells of the title.
The second group can be a bit hokey when they play instruments, but when they sing without, they are powerful and even more soaring than the first, as on "Between Steep Banks," notable for having a soloist and a dozen tenors who all sound like Al Jolson!. On a couple of tracks the chorus disappears leaving the tenor soloist and a few instruments; one such track, "The Lonely Accordion," could almost be French musette in its sophistication. The Carreras-like tenor isn't too bad either.
Despite the pops and hiss this album is a feisty little winner, a must for those who like either Russian chorus or slightly popularized folk music. ~ Kurt Keefner