Slatkin, Cathedral Choral forces honor the Armistice with epic Russian rarity

The centenary of the Armistice ending World War I is fast approaching, and with it many musical celebrations to come.

The Cathedral Choral Society got an early start on the remembrances on Sunday, by performing an expanded version of Commemoration for Fallen Brothers by Alexander Kastalsky. The darkened crossing of Washington National Cathedral teemed with musicians from several ensembles for this solemn and moving concert, reunited under former National Symphony Orchestra music director Leonard Slatkin after their initial performance of the work earlier this month in Kansas City.

The Russian composer conceived of this large choral piece in the midst of the Great War, as a polyglot liturgical work that would weave together melodies and texts from many religious traditions according to the order of the Catholic Requiem. Realizing it would likely never see a performance in church, Kastalsky adapted the work for the concert hall, premiering it in St. Petersburg in 1917, almost a half-century before Britten’s War Requiem. As other countries joined the Allied Forces, including the United States, Kastalsky added movements representing their musical traditions, heard for the first time in these performances…


Rowan Sheehan