Forget the “All-Night Vigil” tag and visions of a dusk-to-dawn Russian Orthodox marathon. In concert Rachmaninov’s Vespers last barely an hour, and in recorded form fit comfortably on a single CD.
But if you combine them with his piano Preludes, as happened in Sunday’s stunningly innovative presentation, you could have a sensational double album. It’s something he and Ex Cathedra should hurry to make.
From first note to last this was a powerfully atmospheric and often hypnotic account, with Jeffrey Skidmore and his singers (Jeremy Budd and Martha McLorinan the gloriously idiomatic soloists) going beyond melody and harmony to explore a rich choral tapestry where inner-part textures and movements were of equal importance and, especially in the basses, awesomely sonorous.
In such a finely judged musical environment, Steven Osborne transcended the role of solo pianist to become an additional member of the ensemble. His playing of the nine Preludes selected by Skidmore to provide links, complements and contrasts showed a subdued virtuosity and tonal subtlety that perfectly matched the mood of the occasion.
Rating * * * * *