It was an entertaining and – yes, soulful program of some 16 selections, essentially divided into two parts: "Russian Sacred Songs," and "Russian Folk Songs." Accompanying the Chorale was the Connecticut Master Chorale Orchestra, some 30 first-rate musicians.
Before the sacred songs, however, the program opened with the rousing "Hymn of the Russian Federation" (or National Anthem).
With such a large program it is impossible to mention every piece, but some highlights were the following: From what may well be the greatest single Russian religious music, the "Vespers," by S. Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), the excerpt, "Bogoroditse Devo" was sung with such affection and vocal control, especially the finely hewn pianissimos, that the performance of it surely rated three "thumbs up!" This and "Cherubic Hymn No. 7" by Dimitry Bortnyansky (1751-1825), a Ukrainian composer, and "Bless the Lord, O My Soul," by Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935), were sung with flawless intonation and tonal finesse.
Closing the sacred portion, and based on liturgical themes, was a moving performance of the "Russian Easter Canticle," by Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908).
In the folk song portion that followed most notable, to this listener, was Heidrich's own arrangement of "Kalinka," (Snowball Tree).
From an old Russian dance, it is a lively, gusty, robust, hand-clapping (which the audience contributed) piece with a gradual up-tempo surge toward a near frenzied climax at full speed! It was so thrilling that Heidrich had to repeat it, not once, but twice!
Then came intermission, with the audience already standing and a bit hyper! There's never a shortage of electrical excitement at a Chorale performance.
The concluding portion of the program, utilizing more of the orchestra, was the stately "Procession Nobles," again by composer Rimsky-Korsakov, from his opera "Mlada." This work and the familiar "Waltz of the Snowflakes," from the "Nutcracker," by P. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) had a settling effect on everyone.
Somewhat unusual and a welcome contrast, was a piano solo by the Chorale's accompanist, pianist Joseph Jacovino, Jr. He played the familiar "it" piece, so dubbed by the composer, Rachmaninoff, because he was always asked to play "it." The "Prelude in C Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2," – often called the "Bells of Moscow."
It was a polished and sensitive reading and Jacovino had an easy grasp of the music's technical demands.
Ending the program was the "Polovetsian Dances," from "Prince Igor," by A. Borodin (1833-1887). This is the well-known and delightful music used for the show "Kismet."
Here the chorale and orchestra were in full sweep of music making, and brought the evening to an exciting finale, complete with standing and roaring applause.
Once again Heidrich and the Connecticut Master Chorale demonstrated the flawless vocal execution and high level of their musicianship, as well as imaginative programming.