Chimes by valery gavrilin

Alex Guerrero shot.jpg

Dimitri Ivanov, actor
Jessica Niles, soprano
Alex Guerrero, tenor

CHIMES, a mesmerizing evening-length cantata by 20th century Russian composer Valery Gavrilin, sensuously rings the changes on the Russian soul.  Deploying its choral and instrumental forces in multihued textures of rhapsodic beauty, this magnificent cantata makes a sweeping journey across the steppes, from comedy and laughter through tragedy and pain. 

Saturday, April 7th, 2017, 8:00 p.m.
Church of the Holy Apostles
296 9th Avenue, New York City

Sunday, April 8th, 2:30 p.m.
National Sawdust
80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249


On April 7 and 8, award-winning choral ensemble Cantori New York, led by Artistic Director Mark Shapiro, explores the Russian soul with a rare U.S. performance – and New York premiere – of renowned 20th-century composer Valery Gavrilin’s captivating evening-length cantata “Chimes.”

At a time of complexity and tension in the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Russia, these concerts evoke something at once uniquely Russian and quintessentially American: the rich soulfulness of folk experience in a vast and storied landscape.

“I like to swim against the tide by challenging received, perfunctory notions about who is who and what is what,” says Shapiro. “There is a great deal about official Russian malfeasance in today’s political news -- but this piece is about something more lasting and transcendently human than governments.”

Widely considered one of Gavrilin’s most significant works, “Chimes” premiered in 1984 and remains frequently performed in Russia today. As Gavrilin himself wrote, the composition expresses the Russian people’s collective spiritual life through the lens of a single character’s fate.

Its thirteen movements carry the listener through the life and eventual death of one man, a kind of heroic outlaw figure (akin to the Robin Hood of English folklore), whose experiences include good and evil, light and darkness, temptation, suffering and beauty. Russian history and tradition are anchoring elements throughout.  The texts of the various movements are permeated with elements of Russian folklore, proverbs, literature and songs.

From beginning to end, the piece evokes the “endless way in which people go along, generation after generation,” Gavrilin wrote. “The images of the road, the way, the river of life are the leading ones in this composition.”

Indeed, this is the spirit embodied in the composition’s title. The most significant milestones in life, in cultures around the world and particularly in the Russian tradition, are often marked with the ringing of chimes or bells -- births, weddings, religious ceremonies, celebrations of all kinds and finally our funerals.  

Cantori is proud to be one of the few choral ensembles that have presented “Chimes” for a U.S. audience; to our knowledge, the complete work has never before been heard in New York. The performance is certain to inspire feelings of kinship and self-recognition among listeners of all backgrounds. The cycle’s multiple movements, at various times playful, wistful, menacing and joyous, are linked by a unity of tone and atmosphere that sings to both the Russian and American spirits.  

“The feeling of being in a country with a lot of open space -- I think that’s something you really hear in this music: the expansive landscape, the magnificence of the sky, the cyclic nature of existence” Shapiro says. “And that’s at the heart of American folklore as well. Our connection to this music and this sensibility is powerful.”  


Featuring guest soloists Dimitri Ivanov, actor; Jessica Niles, soprano; and Alex Guerrero, tenor.