Sacred Songs of Russia portrays the musical legacy of the Russian people, which comes as a response to the depth of their faith. Among the noteworthy works on this recording, which contains previously released material, are two stirring works by Rachmaninoff including Bogoroditse Devo (Rejoice, O Virgin) from his All Night Vigil, Opus 37, and V molitvah (The Mother of God, ever-vigilant in prayer). Perhaps most significant are the Three Choruses of Georgy Sviridov (1915–1998), composed during a time when sacred music was still actively suppressed by the Soviet regime. The three works by Peter Tchaikovsky, Milost’ mira (A Mercy of Peace), Angel Vopiyashe (The Angel cried), and Hymn in Honor of SS. Cyril and Methodius, are also strong statements of the Russian faith and expression through music. Gloriæ Dei Cantores first toured Russia (then part of the U.S.S.R.) in the spring of 1990, to re-introduce Russian sacred choral music to their concert halls for the first time since the Russian Revolution of 1917, and participated in several liturgies of the Russian Orthodox Church. At the request of Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad, later Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Gloriæ Dei Cantores toured Russia a total of three times, returning in 1992 and 1998 to sing in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and throughout the Golden Ring. Gloriæ Dei Cantores were also among the first Western artistic groups to tour Siberia.
“Under the direction of Elizabeth Patterson, Gloriæ Dei Cantores deserves high praise for undertaking the exquisite repertoire included on this compact disc. The ensemble’s choral sound has the depth and richness required by the material ... The Russian Orthodox chant provides the moving highlight of the recording and features excellent singing by bass soloist Andre Papkov and the men of the choir.”
- “Elizabeth Patterson and her choir have done the near impossible – they sound exactly like a real Russian choir (especially the Slavonic diction), yet maintain tonal sweetness and gorgeously blended balance – all the while letting the dynamic fury of this music have full rein. That is not to say the soft side seriously suffers – Gloriæ Dei Cantores floats some of the most cherubic pianissimos I have heard in this type of music, and the result is one of those thrilling experiences that make one thank heaven for the invention of speaker systems. This is the beat – the best – compilation of standard Russian sacred choral music that I have ever heard ...”
American Record Guide
- “This is an impressive conspectus of Russian liturgical music. In Gloriae Dei Cantores one has a choir of eloquent and idiomatic depth and their director, Elizabeth Patterson, encourages strongly powerful sonorities in this most demanding of repertoires. Its forty members sing with devoted passion. The Choir has done themselves and their source material proud.”
- “This necessary recording, made after Gloriae Dei Cantores' tour of Russia...features early post-Glasnost performances of modern Russian sacred composition in Russia's churches and halls.The haunting beauty and emotional power of many of the selections stems both from conductor Elizabeth Patterson's muscular and heartfelt direction, as well as from the strong faith of the singers...”
- “The performance has that attention to detail and control characteristic of intelligent execution of Russian music by non-Russians. The performance also reaches through to the spirit of the music so it sounds like what it was meant to be. Very satisfying both musically and intellectually, this recording effectively communicates the tradition to the listener. Highly recommended as an introduction to the genre, as a first-class performance of these pieces, and for the texts and notes.”