ALEXANDER KASTALSKY (1856 - 1926)
Kastalsky was an important composer of Russian liturgical music during the first two decades of the 20th century. A student of Tchaikovsky and Taneyev, he was the director of the Moscow Synodal School. Halfway through the First World War, Russia would enter a period of great turmoil and revolution. By late 1917, a new Bolshevik regime would gain control and soon banned all sacred music. Consequently, Kastalsky's extraordinary Requiem for Fallen Brothers lay forgotten for over a century. In his time, he was acclaimed as the founder of a new style of church music embracing Russian nationalism. Kastalsky's skillful use of Russian folk melodies give his compositions a marked national flavor, while his use of church melodies and chant link his works to the centuries-old traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Kastalsky began planning his Requiem during the summer of 1914. He conceived it “as a large-scale musical collage that would combine prayers for the dead drawn from the various liturgical traditions of the Allies – Orthodox Russia and Serbia, Roman Catholic France and Italy, and Anglican Britain.” A fourteen-movement version was completed in 1916, and perfromed in Petrograd on January 7, 1917 only 32 days before the beginning of the Russian Revolution. As the war raged and more nations joined the fight, Kastalsky composed three additional movements commemorating the soldiers of the United States of America, Japan, and India. Because performances of sacred music were prohibited after the rise of communism, the piece was nearly lost to history.
After a century in waiting, the Kansas City Chorale and four internationally renowned ensembles present the world-premiere recording of Kastalsky's Requiem, a universal memorial echoing the tragedy and hope of the "war to end all wars," filled with the funerary melodies, hymns, marches, and folk music of the allied nations.
Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem was recorded live in Washington’s National Cathedral on October 21, 2018 during a concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. This world-premiere performance was recorded with the combined forces of several world-renowned classical ensembles and musicians including our own Grammy®-winning Kansas City Chorale (Charles Bruffy, artistic director) along with the Cathedral Choral Society, Grammy®-nominated Clarion Choir, Saint Tikhon Choir, soprano Anna Denis, bass-baritone Joseph Beutel, accompanied by the Grammy®-winning Orchestra of St. Luke’s, led by Grammy®-winning conductor Leonard Slatkin.