Sirine Ensemble

Before the Communist revolution, the Orthodox Church never achieved complete hegemony in Russian religious life. In the countryside, an alternative religious tradition existed with ancient roots stretching back to Slavic pagan times: the tradition of the Old Believers. In 1989, Andrey Kotov organized the Sirine Ensemble to rediscover and resurrect the culture of early Russian singing associated with the Old Believers. This is a rather tall order since we're talking about a 15th century folk music culture with few manuscripts. And most of those manuscripts are notated in a musical language that is no longer understood by modern musicologists. But the Sirine Ensemble is getting there as evidenced by this CD.

Putnik is the Russian term for the wandering musicians who went from village to village in the Russian countryside singing religious songs. The texts were taken from the Bible, Slavic folk culture and from the Russian Orthodox tradition. The melodies were traditional folk melodies. For example, the text on "Verses On the Last Judgement" comes from apocalyptic religious poetry while the melody appears to be a traditional folk tune from the 18th or 19th century played on the violin. Other selections, such as "The Beatitudes" are taken directly from Orthodox liturgy. "Praise the Lord from the Heavens" comes from the religious polyphony tradition, which had its origins in the Russian monasteries. The performances are stirring and the packaging includes some evocative photography. - Aaron Howard

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