As from tomorrow, Holy Thursday, many of us will be on holidays, I’m leaving you a short post with a pretty intense song. See you next Wednesday, when we'll celebrate together Saint George's Day!
La indredulitat de Sant Tomàs - Caravaggio
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas - Caravaggio

This time two years ago, I suggested listening to a song by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Easter, a joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Last year we listened to the moving The Crucifixion by Samuel Barber, and this year we go back to Easter with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s point of view, which is quite different from the one from Vaughan-Williams.

Between August and September 1906, Rachmaninov wrote 15 Romances, Op. 26; the no. 6 of this collection is our song this week, Христос воскрес (Khristos voskres, Christ is risen). As mentioned in a previous post dedicated to the Russian composer, his songs are often sad and melancholic; Khristos voskres is also heart-breaking. Worshipers are in churches celebrating Easter, they are praising the risen Christ, but the poet is sad and silent: if Christ was among us and saw how we hate and kill each other, he would shed bitter tears. This reflection is understandable in light of the Russia in 1906, shortly after the infamous Bloody Sunday, but also at present, when we know about so many disasters around the whole world.

The poem is by Dmitry Merezhkovsky, contemporaneous of Rakmàninov. Merezhkovsky was born into a family who was in good terms with the Tsar's entourage, and from his youth he devoted himself to intellectual and spiritual life. Nevertheless, his faith led him to reprobate the anti-Christianity of the Russian Monarchy and to approach socialism. He understood the revolution by means of religion, because Christ was a revolutionary. Things went as we already know, Merezhkovsky had to run away from Russia to Paris in 1921. Rachmaninov had fled from the revolution in 1917; besides sharing melancholy and pessimism, the sorrow of exile finally got them together.

We are listening to Khristos voskres performed by Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus, accompanied by Howard Shelley. I've added the cyrilic poem for those readers who can read Russian.

Despite such a sad song, you have a happy Easter!

Khristos voskres

Khristos voskres
pojut vo khrame;
No grustno mne...
dusha molchit.
Mir polon krov'ju i slezami,
I `etot gimn pred altarjami
Tak oskorbitel'no zvuchit.

Kogda-b On byl mezh nas i videl,
Chego dostig nash slavnyj vek,
Kak brata brat voznenavidel,
Kak opozoren chelovek,
I jesli b zdes',
v blestjashchem khrame
Khristos voskres
On uslykhal,
Kakimi b gor'kimi slezami,
Pered tolpoj
On, zarydal!

"Christ is risen"
they sing in church.
Yet I am sad...
my soul is silent.
The world is steeped in blood and tears,
and so this hymn before the altars
sounds like an insult.

Were He present among us to see
what our glorious age has achieved --
how brother comes to hate his brother,
and how shameful is mankind --
and if,
within the shining church,
this "Christ is risen"
He were to hear,
what bitter tears
before the crowd
would He sob!

(English translation by Shawn Thuris)


Христос воскрес
поют во храме;
Но грустно мне...
душа молчит.
Мир полон кровью и слезами,
И этот гимн пред алтарями
Так оскорбительно звучит.

Когда-б Он был меж нас и видел,
Чего достиг наш славный век,
Как брата брат возненавидел,
Как опозорен человек,
И если б здесь,
в блестящем храме
Христос воскрес
Он услыхал,
Какими б горькими слезами,
Перед толпой
Он, зарыдал!


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LIFE Victoria Tardor 2021

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