Grand Choir Masters of Choral Singing

Grand Choir “Masters of Choral Singing”
of the Russian State TV and Radio Music Centre
Artistic director – Lev Kontorovich

The company was conceived and founded in 1928 by its first music director – an outstanding master of choral art Alexander Sveshnikov. For many years the Grand Choir kept its popularity among the Central television and radio station companies of the Soviet Union. In different periods the choir was directed by Nikolai Golovanov. From 1952 to 1983, the choir was conducted by the People’s Artist of the USSR Professor Klavdy Ptitsa and was taken over by professor Lyudmila Yermakova, also the People’s Artist of the USSR, in 1983–2008. Under their leadership the choir gained the reputation of the nation’s most eminent company. For the last 80 years the choir has performed over 5000 music pieces – operas, oratories, cantatas by Russian and international composers, a capella music, folk songs and sacred music. Many of them were recorded for the radio to contribute to the treasury of Russian sound recording and get international acclaim (Grand Prix of a records contest in Paris and the Gold medal in Valencia, Spain). The choral compositions by numerous Russian authors, such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Shchedrin, Khachaturian, Taktakishvili, Agafonnikov and Kikta, were originally interpreted by the choir.

Such prominent musicians as Irina Arkhipova, Alexander Gauk, Nikolai Gedda, Svyatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Evgeny Svetlanov, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Ennio Morricone, Evgeny Nesterenko, Elena Obraztsova, Mikhail Pletnev, Vladimir Fedoseev, Dmitry Hvorostovsky, Zurab Sotkilava, Dmitry Kitaenko, Theodor Curentzis and many others have worked with the Grand Choir in various times of its life.
Since 1996, the choir has been part of the Russian State TV and Radio Music Centre.
In 2005, professor Lev Kontorovich, an Honoured Artist of Russia, who was trained in conducting by K. Ptitsa and L. Yermakova at Moscow Conservatory in the 1960s, was invited to the Grand Choir (which was renamed “Masters of Choral Singing”) to take the position of the choirmaster as a person embracing the legacy of his reputable predecessors.

Lev Kontorovich and the recast Grand Choir consistently adhere to the traditions introduced by their precursors in the previous three quarters of the century. The name of the company presupposes professionalism, exquisite performance, exceptional efficiency and versatile skills of the choir’s members, as each of them is able to perform both as a choir participant and as a soloist.

“Masters of Choral Singing” has their debut in November 2005 when they sang Verdi’s Requiem. In the years to follow the band made its programs including works by Charpentier, Mozart, Russian religious music, participated in the performance of Mozart’s Requiem in Moscow and Kazan (at the composer’s 250th anniversary), Shostakovich’s cantata Anti-Formalist Rayok, for the composer’s 100th anniversary), in the world premiere of the stage version of Prokofiev’s oratorio Ivan the Terrible at the XII International Choral and Bell-Ringer Festival in Yaroslavl. The choir also gave a performance of Shchedrin’s The Sealed Angel liturgy at a festival devoted to the composer’s 75th birthday.

At the moment the musical team has a diversity of choral, symphonic, opera, cantata and oratorio masterpieces in its repertoire: Mass in B minor and Johannes Passions by J. S. Bach, Handel’s Messiah, masses and Requiem by Mozart, Beethoven’s 9th symphony finale, Fauré’s Requiem, Paradise and the Peri of Schumann, Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina by Orff, St. John of Damascus by Taneev, All-Night Vigil, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and Spring Cantata by Rakhmaninoff, Skryabin’s Prometheus, Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible by Prokofiev, Songs of Kursk, Pushkin’s Garland and Spring cantata by Sviridov; religious music works by Arkhangelsky, Bortnyansky, Kastalsky, Tchaikovsky, Tchesnokov, choral scenes and episodes from the operas by Verdi, Glinka, Musorgsky, Rakhmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and other composers.

The choir does contemporary music as well making appearances in varios festivals (Spring in Russia, Territoriya (the Terrirory) etc.). “Autumn International choral festival named after Professor Boris Tevlin” (2012–2014), “To the 80th anniversary of Rodion Shchedrin” (2012), “Dedicated to a Victory Day” (2013); “Conducted by Vladimir Jurowski and stories” (2014–2015). Grand Choir is a permanent member of the Moscow Christmas Festival of Sacred Music (Artistic directors Vladimir Spivakov and Metropolitan Hilarion) and the Moscow Easter Festival by Valery Gergiev.
The company performed twice (in 2005 and 2008) at the concerts given in Moscow by a celebrated Italian composer and conductor Ennio Morricone.

In 2008 and 2012 the Grand Choir participated in the inauguration of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, and in 2014 –in a gala concert of the Summit of Heads of Caspian States (Astrakhan).
One can hear the choir sing in the best concert halls of Moscow and other Russian cities. The musicians were favorably accepted abroad (Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Republic of Korea, Japan etc.). In September 2008, the band carried out the choir part in the concert version of Bellini’s The Capuleti and the Montecchi at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall providing, as it was noted by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, an appropriate background for the all star cast of soloists. In 2009–2010 season, the choir gave concerts at Alte Oper (Frankfurt), Carl Orff-Hall (Munich Philharmonic), Arena Riga (featuring Dmitry Hvorostovsky), Barvikha Luxury Village at the Easter Festival of Valery Gergiev, concert halls of the Moscow Conservatory and he Moscow International Performing Arts Center, Tchaikovsky concert hall etc. In December 2009, the company toured together with Dmitry Hvorostovsky throughout the cities of Ural and Siberia.

Grand Choir is taking part in Radio Orpheus creative project “Reviving the Heritage of Russian Composers” performing the world premieres and rare works of Anton Arensky, Nikolai Golovanov, Alexander Mossolov, Leonid Polovinkin.