The Clarion Choir, one of the premier professional vocal ensembles in the United States, is going to give the Russian premiere of what is perhaps the greatest Russian choral work since Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, Maximilian Steinberg’s long-hidden masterpiece from the 1920s: Passion Week. Under the auspices of the United States Department of State and with a grant from The Trust for Mutual Understanding, Clarion will return this masterpiece to Russia this October (2016) and give the first ever performances of the work in the country where it was written.
Clarion will premiere the work at the Grand Hall Philharmonic (above) in St. Petersburg on October 25th. The ensemble will then give the premiere in Moscow at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and in Rachmaninoff Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on October 26th and 28th, respectively. We also will perform at a reception at the US Ambassador's Residence, Spaso House, in Moscow on October 27th.
The Clarion Choir will then give the UK premiere of the work in the beautiful and historic Duke's Hall of the Royal Academy of Music in London on October 30th, 5pm, with a seminar on Russian choral music with the Academy choral conducting students to follow on the 31st at 10.30am.
Passion Week is a previously unknown choral masterwork, written by Maximilian Steinberg in 1920s St. Petersburg, Russia. The piece was never performed in the composer's lifetime due to the Bolshevik ban on sacred music. Steinberg was a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the prized student of Rimsky-Korsakov, a classmate of Stravinsky, and the teacher of Shostakovich. He composed Passion Week in secret over a period of three years. A copy of the first edition of Passion Week ended up in the hands of Russian-American conductor Igor Buketoff in the 1950s. Due to his custodianship of the work, and that of his daughter Barbara Mouk and cousins Daniel and Tamara Skvir, the piece resurfaced in America in 2014, with premiere performances given by the ensemble Cappella Romana, who made the first recording of the work, and in an open reading and later the New York premiere of the work by The Clarion Choir.
Steinberg was a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov and the teacher of Shostakovich, who championed his works and who, we believe, brought this astounding score to the United States in hopes that it could be performed here. The piece had been written in secret at a time when sacred music in Russia was banned. Therefore, it was never performed.
The occasion of an American choir returning this piece to Russia and giving the premiere will be an experience greater than music. We are thrilled to have the honor of introducing this masterpiece to the world!
Read more on the Russian tour here.