The Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale, Conducted by Charles Bruffy
Winner, 2016 GRAMMY®, Best Choral Recording
Charles Bruffy’s two GRAMMY® Award-winning choirs join forces to sing the pinnacle of Russian sacred music, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil. When the Phoenix Chorale and Kansas City Chorale sing side by side, they create a truly sublime sound—this is one musical experience that is not to be missed. The release date marks the 100th anniversary of the world premiere of the work, given by the Moscow Synodal Choir on March 10, 1915.
Reviews and Accolades for Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil
This new recording from Charles Bruffy and his combined Phoenix and Kansas City Chorales…stands both as the All-Night Vigil’s reference a stunning rendition a world apart from any other recording of the work and as a major achievement in the history of choral recordings. …And somehow, the sound of this 56-voice choir, captured in Kansas City’s Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, creates a strangely affecting resonance, vibrant, timeless, eternally echoing. I have no idea how the performers and recording engineers achieved this sound- all other recordings of the work pale in comparison- but at least part of it must be attributed to the large and formidable bass section (16 voices), the nearly as large (15 voices) tenor section, and to Bruffy’s insistence on giving full flower to the glorious harmonies to not rushing the tempo…But if ever there were music that compelled the performers to take time, to extend the breath, to be magnanimous with the phrase, to revel in harmonic resonance, this is it; and Bruffy has the will and the means (those 56 exceptional voices) to do it…you realize that there are not so many recordings, nor are there so many musical works that are able to hold you so thoroughly enthralled from beginning to end.—David Vernier, Classicstoday.com
The commercial recording history of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil stretches back only 50 years, with at least three outstanding versions having been released in the past three years. Now, in its centenary year, comes this collaboration between two top-flight Grammy Award-winning chamber choirs based 1200 miles apart, in Phoenix, Arizona and Kansas City. They share an Artistic Director, Charles Bruffy, a former tenor soloist with the doyen of American choral conductors, Robert Shaw. The combined 56 voices are beautifully balanced and set back at some distance from the microphones in the cavernous acoustic of the Cathedral of St Peter the Apostle in Kansas City. Intonation is spot-on throughout this taxing work and there are no audible edits. In addition to coaxing an ultra-smooth blend to the choral sound Bruffy has also – by disregarding a fair number of Rachmaninov’s markings – rubbed off some of the crispness of articulation which this mostly slow music surely demands. This is a chromium-plated interpretation, made almost glacial at times by the adopting of lower-than-expected metronomic speeds. Bruffy manages to make the Vigil stretch to over 75 minutes. Compare this with the Netherlands Radio Choir, under Kaspars Putniņš, who dispatch the piece in just under 52 minutes. Full marks, though, to the splendid soloists, especially Julia Scozzafava, whose alto solo sounds like the genuine article.—Malcolm Riley, Gramophone
This is an impressive account of a very great masterpiece, which, because of its nature, is not as well known as the quality of the music demands it should be. However, those music lovers who realize that Rachmaninov was so much more a great composer than several of his concertos and one or two of his symphonic works suggest, will already be familiar with its qualities. This work meant much to Rachmaninov, the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ (fourth) movement being sung at his funeral in 1943 – by an American choir, of course, by which time the Russian Orthodox tradition from which the work emanated had been virtually rendered impotent in the Soviet Union. So we should not dismiss any performance – certainly not one as good and as committed as this – on the grounds that the work is not sung by a Russian choir, although it must be said that the natural timbre of Russian voices can add a patina of authenticity that other bodies do not have, more especially in the virtually unique qualities of low basses. Rachmaninov takes the bases down to low B flat, which very few men possess, a natural depth of tone which seems to be more prevalent in Russia than in male voices from Arizona or Kansas – or so one would think, but on this fine recording we have no fewer than 16 basses and 15 tenors, who together reveal the profound nature of the composer’s part-writing, wholly in keeping with the music. The women’s voices in this combined ensemble match the men in numbers and in quality. One may think that the recording balance is a shade (no more than that) obfuscating in effect, but this is a large choir, such as Rachmaninov would have envisaged, and one which demands a spacious acoustic, redolent of the great Orthodox cathedrals, with their sole musical contributions being a cappella. It is not entirely necessary that the Russian words should be crystal clear, for that is an impossibility if any attempt at authenticity is to be made, but what is remarkable here is that so much of the text is clear. This combined choir is of truly exceptional quality, the occasional solos are excellently taken and the recording, in a most suitable venue, sets this great work as it should be experienced aurally. … I can well understand that there will be purists who will object on principle to a non-Russian choir in this work, but previous recordings have demonstrated beyond doubt that this combined chorus possesses the style to an admirable degree, and I very much hope that this first-rate recording will do more to bring this masterpiece to a wider listening public – it certainly deserves to.—Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review