Six Choruses for Treble Voices, op. 15 (or Six Choral Songs)

Conductor Notes:

Not sure why it took me 29 years to consider programming this suite of six short secular pieces (written in 1895) with piano, but I was really happy that I finally did. They were the centrepiece for our May 2016 concert “In the Abbey Garden”. The writing is mostly 2-part and the piano is, not surprisingly, the driving force behind the variety and subtlety of mood. I’m particularly fond of #2 (Night). Musica Russica sells an excellent language recording and, even with that, my singers had to put in a lot of time mastering the text before it started to take shape for them vocally.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.



Six Choruses for Treble Voices, op. 15
Sung in Russian

1. Glory!
From a poem by Nikolai A. Nekrasov (1821-1877)

Glory! Long live the people in glory!
First are the people, first is their fate,
first is their need for freedom and peace!
Our fathers battled enemies and defended
the land that we might be free.
Now we go onward, one loving family,
furthering freedom even as we are
strengthening peace.
Glory! Long live the people in glory!
First are the people, first is their fate.
first is their need for freedom and peace!
Glory! Glory! Glory!

2. Night
Poem by Vladimir Ladyzhensky (1859-1932)

Softly night comes in on dusky wings,
taking flight across the land,
and from somewhere drifts a dreary song,
drifts a song made dark by a tear.
Go away, you melancholy tune.
Soon the night will fall away.
The triumphant resurrected day
will bring happiness to all.
Meanwhile, weary dreamers are renewed
in the mystery of sleep.
Crimson dawn will seep across the sky
and dissolve itself in blue.

3. The Pine Tree
Poem by Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841)

The north wind is savage.
The mountain is barren.
Alone on the peak stands a pine.
It sways as it slumbers,
as glittering snowflakes drift downward
and clothe it in white.
It dreams in its sleep of a distant horizon,
a desert of sand dunes and sun.
where, high on a cliff,
swaying slowly in sorrow,
a beautiful palm stands alone.

4. Now the Waves are Drowsing
Poem by K. R. [Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov] (1858-1915)

Now the waves are drowsing
in the quiet night,
azure waters glimmer brightly
in the full moon light.

Silver moonbeams falling
set the waves ablaze beneath.
Like a moonbeam driving darkness from the ocean.
joy makes light of grief.

5. Captivity
Poem by Nikolai Tsyganov (1797-1831)

“Little nightingale with your head beneath your wing,
Why do you eat nothing and why do you not sing?”

“Ages ago I sang in spring in a wood beneath the stars.
Now I only hang my head in a cage with golden bars.
Should I sing? My mate is alone and sighing for me.
Should I sing when my nestlings are calling and crying for me?”

“Through the open window behold the open sky.
Be happy, little nightingale. Spread your wings and fly!”

6. The Angel
Poem by Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841)

The heavenly song of an angel in flight
was quietly filling the night.
The clouds and the moon and the stars in a throng
were listening as he sang the song.

He sang of the sinless spirits in bliss
in gardens of paradise.
He sang of the greatness of God,
and his guileless praises pervaded the sky.

The angel embraced a young soul in his arms
to set in this harsh vale of tears.
The sound of the song lingered on in the soul,
remaining alive through the years.

Confined to the face of the wearisome world,
the soul ached with wondrous desire;
the sounds of the earth could never replace
a song of the heavenly choir.

English translations reproduced by permission of Mark Herman and Ronnie Apter.