St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Shchedrin. The Sealed Angel

Nikita Kaminsky (discant)
Adrian Zykov (alto)
Sofia Viland (flute)

The Mariinsky Chorus
Conductor: Konstantin Rylov

Rodion Shchedrin
The Sealed Angel, choral music after Nikolai Leskov

Principal Chorus Master: Konstantin Rylov
Musical Preparation: Leonid Zolotarev

Supported by

About the Concert

“This Angel was in truth too wonderful to describe. His countenance, as I now see it, seemed shining with divinity and readiness to help; his glance compassionate; his little ears were pointed as if ever ready to hearken; his vesture shone and his tunic seemed powdered with gold; wings sprang from his shoulders, he wore a girdle; on his breast was the face of the babe Emmanuel; a cross in his right hand and in his left a fiery sword. Wonderful, wonderful! The locks on his dear little head were curly, and auburn, winding beneath his ears, and every hair painted as if with a needle, and every curl nestled against the next curl.”

Thus does the protagonist from Nikolai Leskov’s tale The Sealed Angel (1872) describe an icon particularly revered by an artel of masonic Old Believers. Leskov’s wondrous lexis with its incomparably colourful intonation inspired Rodion Shchedrin to compose a Sealed Angel of his own (1988). “Here there are no direct plot links with the literary source,” the composer has explained, “but the most important idea, in my opinion, of Leskov of the incorruptibility of artistic beauty, of the magical and lofty power of art is feasibly interpreted by means of musical language. Here and there, onto the pages of his story Leskov scatters the first lines taken from hymns of the Old Believers, the literary texts of which have been, in part, set to my music.”

The Sealed Angel by Shchedrin emerged in the thousand-year anniversary of Christianity arriving in Rus’ of Old, though the anniversary date itself was not the principal guiding stimulus that compelled the composer, the grandson of a priest, to respond to “the call of the heart”, and in just one month to produce a score that he later came to call a “Russian liturgy”. At the turn of the 1980s-90s, the country “printed out” – acquiring once more – this jewel of its religious and spiritual tradition. In churches that reopened after long years of lying in ruins, church choruses could be heard. But Shchedrin was not composing for a choir; the emotional experience felt by someone in a church is something he brings to the concert hall. In translation from the Greek, “liturgy” means “shared service”, and through this “shared service” the composer offers the purification of the soul by means of singing in a choir and listening to a choir.

The choral writing in The Sealed Angel is unusually diverse and varied, with its sources lying in Russian folklore, as well as in Russian divine worship customs from several centuries, and also in the musical avant-garde of the 20th century. In combining the styles of early Russian anthem singing and the multi-voice church singing of the New Age (from partes to Rachmaninoff and Chesnokov), by employing musical means Shchedrin expresses the core thought behind Leskov’s story – the idea of reuniting the proponents of old and new rites, the Old Believers and the Nikonites, and – in a broader sense – the idea of national unity. Khristina Batyushina

Age category 6+

Any use or copying of site materials, design elements or layout is forbidden without the permission of the rightholder.

The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.

This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N436-FZ dated 29 December 2010 (edition dated 1 May 2019) "On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health"