Pioneer Valley Cappella presents choral gems by three Russian composers: Alfred Schnittke, César Cui, and Igor Stravinsky.
The highlight of the program is Stravinsky’s masterpiece, Symphony of Psalms, commissioned by the Boston Symphony to mark its 50th season in 1930. One of Stravinsky’s most deeply moving and genuinely spiritual pieces, Symphony of Psalms treats voices and instruments as independent equals, neither outweighing the other. The music is built from many small patterns, which Stravinsky combines in layers to create sounds that are, by turns, plaintive, ferocious, and floating.
The program opens with Three Sacred Hymns, composed in a single night in 1984 by Alfred Schnittke. The music is rooted in the orthodox choral tradition—its seeming simplicity illuminated with radiant harmonies.
A collection of five songs by the 19th century romantic composer (and Professor of Military Engineering) César Cui rounds out the program. Cui’s settings of romantic poetry are lush and tuneful, with distinctively Russian sonorities.