I don't want to proselytize but since this Forum deals mostly with things Russian and since this thread seems to have wandered into religious thickets I thought I would direct you to this site (turn up your speakers) for your entertainment and, who knows, edification . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrdz-UJbVXQ&feature=related
You may have heard the apocryphal story of how Russia was converted to Christianity but once you listen to what's on this site you will understand. It is said that Prince Vladimir of Kiev when he decided to convert his people to Christianity sent out delegations to Rome and to Constantinople and when they returned those that went to Constantinople told the Prince that at the services they attended in St. Sophia they heard the voices of angels. So Russia became Orthodox. The hymn celebrates the Veneration of the Cross which is one of the services held during lent in preparation for Easter (and as it so happens it took place this past weekend). I've always believed that to truly understand the Russian soul you must delve into Russian liturgical music. Of course, the piece celebrates one of the glories of Russian choral and operatic singing the Basso Profondo (Boris Godunov
springs to mind). Actually Youtube has a good selection of pieces by Chaliapin and various contemporary Bassos singing various hymns and litanies. I find it spiritual having grown up in the Church and singing in Church choirs all my life but my wife complains its all too dirge like and depressing. But I think it's still better than listening to the International
at party meetings. So there you are different strokes for different folks.
Well, I couldn't agree more, Petr. I adore Russian Orthodox church music, so many thanks for the link and the additional references. My own personal favorite is "Vespers" by Sergei Rachmaninov. Incredibly beautiful. But like you, I also love Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov," not least for its many religious under(and over)tones. My dream is that I will someday see and hear this opera live, in person.
I will, with your forbearance, expand upon the story of the Russian nation's conversion to Christianity in 988 A.D. According to legend (as related by the historian Nicholas V. Riasanovsky) the Russian ruler and his advisors rejected Islam "because it prohibited alcohol--'for drink is the joy of the Russian'--and Judaism because it expressed the beliefs of a defeated people without a state" (A History of Russia
, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977, p. 38). According to Riasanovsky, in practical, politically pragmatic terms, "Vladimir and his associates chose to become the Eastern flank of Christendom rather than an extension into Europe of non-Christian civilizations" (ibid.). For example, at this pivotal time in European history the Orthodox Byzantine Empire was waxing in power, influence, and geopolitical importance, whereas the former mightiness of the Judaic Khazar kingdom on Russia's southeastern flank was already rapidly waning, and soon to be entirely wiped out.