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Price: $49.95


Publisher: Musica Russica

Pavel Chesnokov
John C. Rommereim


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The Choir and How to Direct It

One does not usually expect choral treatises to be bestsellers, but in the Soviet Union in 1940, when Pavel Chesnokov's The Choir and How to Direct It first appeared in print, it sold out within a matter of hours. The book's popularity later led to two subsequent Russian editions in 1952 and 1961, and it became a "choral Bible" of sorts for a generation of conductors. Now, decades later, this is the first translated publication of the book outside of Russian ever to appear.

Chesnokov considered The Choir and How to Direct it to be his magnum opus, a summing-up of his life' swork as a choral musician. The book gives a comprehensive treatement of every aspect of choral performance, including the practical organization of a choir, issues of group leadership, balance, blend, vocal production, gesture, stage development, repertoire selection, rehersal technique, etc. It includes full-length musical examples, with detailed analyses and recommendations for interpretation. Unique to Chesnokov is a detailed stragegy for purifying intonation, and an ambitious scheme for what he calls "choral timbrization"- a technique that divides the choir into small groups of voices of a particular timbre, which are then deployed as in an orchestration.

Chesnokov received his early training at the Moscow Synodal School and, prior to the 1917 Revolution, he was a successful and prolific composer of church music. In his lifetime Chesnokov composed approximately 400 sacred and 100 secular works. Despite his revered stature and his many achievements, Chesnokov's links to the Russian Orthodox Church brought difficulties upon him. He experienced many setbacks as he attempted ot have this book published. When one editor mentioned Chesnokov's church background in a review, it proved to be a kiss of death an doomed the project for years.

In private, unpublished notes, Chesnokov revealed that the ideal choir he describes in his book is modeled on the Moscow Synodal Choir, the legendary ensemble that premiered Rachmanioff's All-Night Vigil, Gretchaninoff's Passion Week, and hundreds of other works. Chesnokov's book therefore offers insights into the performance practice appropriate to the distinguished body of choral music composed in the years preceding the 1917 Revolution.