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De Profundis

Metropolitan Hilarion, who has recorded his De profundis for Pentatone, sheds light on the sheer passion that inspired the impressive work, with an interview with PENTATONE.

De Profundis is a collection of compositions for orchestra and choir written byMetropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, one of the most widely performed of all living Russian composers. With his remarkable ability to imbue his music with profound religious content using  a simple and comprehensible musical language, he is capable of creating new ways of musical expression while remaining faithful to the centuries-old classical tradition. Conducted by the composer himself, the recording took place in Moscow with the Russian National Orchestra and the Moscow Synodal Chorus. Curious about a personal perspective from the composer himself, Pentatone asked Metropolitan Hilarion to write a few lines about the release, in an interview withPENTATONE

"I am glad to present my musical works to the Western public. My best known composition has been so far the "St Matthew Passion", composed in 2006. Since that time it has been performed more than 70 times all over the globe. The main source of inspiration for this work was Johann Sebastian Bach and his St Matthew Passion, as well as other monumental works for choir and orchestra dedicated to Jesus Christ and various events from his life. However, as a member of the Russian Orthodox church, I devised my work as based on the Orthodox liturgical tradition in all its beauty and grandeur. The composition is inspired by to be a reflection of the Orthodox services of the Passion week (the week that precedes Easter). 

The earliest work, "The Songs of Death", was composed when I was seventeen on the lyrics of Federico Garcia Lorca, my favourite poet. The theme of death is approached from different angles in this composition, consisting of four parts. There are a couple of works on this CD which do not belong to the realm of religious music, the "Concerto grosso" written in a baroque style, and the "Fugue on the BACH Motif", which pays tribute to the greatest composer of all times, his family name used as a musical cryptogram. The main works presented on this CD are the "Stabat Mater" and the "De profundis". Both compositions employ Latin text, the first using the 13th century poem ascribed to Jacopone da Todi, the second using the Psalms. The text of "Stabat Mater" has inspired many composers over several centuries, while the Psalms, albeit all their beauty and richness, were used much less frequently for musical compositions. As examples of their use one may recall Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms" and Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms". In the "De profundis" I employ extensive musical forces, including a full symphony orchestra, organ and a mixed choir. From darkness to light, this is the main motto of this composition, which begins with sombre music in the form of passacaglia, runs through the lyrical music of the Psalm "On the River of the Babylon" and ends with jubilant "Alleluia".

The compositions recorded on this CD belong to different periods of my life and exibit different stylistic influences. The music has been recorded by one of the greatest contemporary orchestras, the Russian National Orchestra, and the Moscow Synodal Choir. The main soloist is the opera star of first magnitude, the soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre, Svetlana Kasyan."

This interview was originally published on 2April 2015 by PENTATONE.Read the original articlehere.

Photo by S. Titov

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Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev - DE PROFUNDIS Compositions for orchestra and choir