Here’s some Easter Sunday testimony as to why the Ukrainian-born composer Dmitri Bortniansky (mentioned earlier in this space) was a giant in his day, The court composer to Catherine The Great wrote no fewer than 35 “sacred concertos” for choir, generally three-movement a cappella concoctions based on psalms. This one I think is one of the most impressive, displaying, in the words of Slavophile liner note auteur Philip Taylor, “amazing richness, suppleness, and strength.”
Bortnniansky shows an outstanding gift for lyrical ideas such as we have rarely heard before in the concertos. In ‘I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills’ we are transported little by little in the cavernous depths in which the concerto begins upwards towards moments of sublime beauty. The second movement is an uninterrupted stream of fresh melodic ideas….this provides an excellent contrast for the forceful vigor of the Finale….”
Can I get an Amen? And check out the classic sound of those Russian basses in the excellent Russian State Symphonic Capella. You can even follow along to the score in this video!