Slavyanka Chorus presents Konstantin Shvedov’s Liturgy, a rarely-performed Russian sacred masterwork for mixed choir that was written more than one hundred years ago. Artistic Director Irina Shachneva will lead Slavyanka in a performance to be given on October 27th at 8 p.m. at Mission Santa Clara on the University of Santa Clara Campus, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara. General admission tickets are priced at $20 ($15 for students) and are available for purchase online at http://www.slavyankachorus.org or at the door.
Before the outbreak of World War I and the Russian Revolution, a revival of sacred music centered at the Moscow Synodal School resulted in the creation of such well-known works as Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy (1878) and Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (1915), among others. Konstanin Shvedov, their creative contemporary, wrote his Liturgy in 1913, a 13-movement setting of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the central service of the Russian Orthodox Church. Shvedov was widely considered to be a significant musical innovator of this period with one of the leading music critics of the time, N.D. Kashkin, writing “…Konstantin Nikolaevich Shvedov left the synodal church choristers and from a young age drew attention to himself with his talent for composing church music. His Liturgy, for example, in my opinion, is the best that has been written of this kind, not excluding the works of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.” Despite this, Shvedov’s work ultimately became lost during the tumultuous events of this time and was not heard again until more than 70 years later when a public performance, initiated by Slavyanka Artistic Director Irina Schachneva, was given in Moscow by choral group Vitrazh.
Following Irina Shachneva’s graduation from the highly-esteemed Gorky (now Nizhni Novgorod) Conservatory, her conducting professor secretly entrusted her with photo negatives of Shvedov’s original Liturgy score which was published before the Soviet Revolution and preserved as such due to the danger posed by the possession of musical scores during the Stalin era. They remained unknown until the 1980s when Irina, her friend and esteemed musical colleague Yelena Rastvorova, and a group of musicians created handwritten scores transcribed from the photo negatives. Officially recognized groups during the Soviet era were required to write Soviet themed music and all compositions and performances had to be approved by the Ministry of Culture who refused to support or fund the efforts to perform Shvedov’s long lost work. Despite undertaking significant risk, Irina and Yelena decided to forge ahead and present the first modern performance of this work in mid-May of 1988 in the Moscow district of Kosovo, in a performance conducted by Yelena Rastvorova. Thirty five years later, Irina will now lead Slavyanka in one of the very first performances of this work in the United States.
Artistic Director Irina Shachneva says, “I still remember vividly the moment that my dear professor entrusted to me the photo negatives of Shvedov’s Liturgy score and told me, ‘I know that no one will perform this, but I know you will.’ These words stayed with me for years and it became one of my lifelong pursuits to not only safeguard one of the most magnificent Russian sacred works of the early 20th century, but to be a part of its rediscovery. When we step onto the stage for this performance, we will remember and honor everyone that helped to preserve this piece, at significant risk, and enabled us to bring it here for American audiences. It is of great personal joy to be able to fulfill the hope and faith of that long chain of people and for this score to become living music once again for a whole new generation of listeners.”
Slavyanka Chorus is an a cappella chorus based in San Francisco whose mission is to bring music from the varied choral traditions of Russia and Eastern Europe to American audiences; to share the cultural history behind these traditions; and to contribute to intercultural understanding between East and West through the special language of choral music. Founded during the Cold War, Slavyanka believes that even when there are severe differences between Russia and America, there remains an essential responsibility to keep alive the threads of human connection between the people of these different countries.
Slavyanka is a 44-year-old San Francisco chorus specializing in Russian and Eastern European choral music, and taking its name from the earlier Russian name for Northern California’s Russian River. The chorus was formed in 1979 by a group of former Yale Russian Chorus members and others interested in singing Russian music. Since June 2012, Slavyanka has been led by Artistic Director Irina Shachneva.
Slavyanka toured the Soviet Union in 1986 and 1989. During its first tour, it was the first American chorus ever invited to sing in Leningrad’s (now St. Petersburg’s) historic M.I. Glinka Kapella Hall, and over 900 Soviet choral musicians gave the group a standing ovation. During Slavyanka’s second tour the chorus performed sold-out concerts in Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, and Vladimir. The group also participated in a wide variety of “people to people” and “choral exchange” concerts with choruses from the Soviet Union, and performed for Mikhail Gorbachev, then Premier of the Soviet Union, when he visited San Francisco in 1990. In 1986 and again in 1990, the chorus won the honor of performing at the Western Regional Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, where it received standing ovations.
In 2016, Slavyanka was invited to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, the only American choir invited to do so. The Chorus rehearsed and sang with several outstanding Russian choirs and was received with standing ovations by enthusiastic audiences in Moscow and at St. Petersburg’s Glinka Kapella Hall.
About Irina Shachneva
Slavyanka Artistic Director Irina Shachneva has been a conductor, teacher, performer and manager for more than 35 years. She received her Bachelor of Music with Honor from the Penza Music College and a Master of Music from the Gorky (Nizhni Novgorod) State Conservatory. She founded and was the first Artistic Director of the Municipal Choral School, Rhapsodie, which has since become one of the largest children’s choral music schools in greater Moscow. She toured with her choirs in France, Bulgaria, Poland and Russia, and recorded a CD with them.
After coming to the United States, Shachneva studied conducting with Tamara Brooks at the New England Conservatory of Music. She established the Boston Russian Chorus, and has been a guest conductor of the New England Conservatory Chorus, the Jordan Hall Festival Chorus, and the Plymouth Festival Chorus.
In 2010 Shachneva founded and became the Artistic Director of the International Rachmaninoff Russian Music Festival in Boston. Its success led to a prestigious invitation to Russia, where she led the Festival Choir at an International Choral Festival celebrating the 450th anniversary of the famed St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square. In 2012 she also led the Second International Rachmaninoff Russian Music in Boston. She became Slavyanka’s Artistic Director in June 2012, and since that time has led an International Choral Festival in San Francisco; led a performance of Rachmaninoff;s Vespers in Grace Cathedral; and led Slavyanka Chorus on a concert tour to Boston and a two week concert tour in Russia. Most recently, Shachneva began working with the church choir of All Russian Saints Orthodox Church in Burlingame.