March 12, 2019

The name of Vladimir Gorbik, artistic director of The Capital Symphony Orchestra in Moscow, the main conductor of the Moscow Representation Church of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, is increasingly appearing on posters in Moscow concert venues. This Russian conductor actively collaborates with various symphony orchestras around the world, conducts master classes in Russia, the USA, Australia, and in the countries of Central Asia, and also pays great attention to the Male Choir of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music (PaTRAM) Institute, which was among the nominees for the GRAMMY Awards this year.
Interviewing Vladimir Gorbik (VG) was "Musical life" correspondent Viktor Alexandrov (VA).

VA – Vladimir, your CD “Teach Me Thy Statutes” with the spiritual compositions of Pavel Chesnokov was nominated for a GRAMMY award in the field of “Best Choral Performance.”

VG – The idea to record this monographic album appeared several years after the first CD released with the male choir of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music (PaTRAM) Institute, of which I am a co-founder. In the States, Chesnokov is not as famous as he is in Russia. We wanted to acquaint the Western public with his music: we collected all of his well-known compositions that had come to be used regularly in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we presented these on this CD.

VA – And where was the recording made?

VG – In Saratov. Metropolitan Longin of Saratov and Volsk blessed us and offered as a venue the church of the Saratov Theological Seminary, with its remarkable acoustics. While we worked on the album, I felt that something incredible was happening. The specialists of the Boston-based company Soundmirror arrived in Saratov at the invitation of Alexis Lukianov, the producer and chairman of the Board of Directors of PaTRAM. The CD was released on the Reference Recordings label (USA) and received very warm reviews in the American press – in particular, three MusicWeb International experts, without consulting with each other, each called it “the CD of the year!”

The GRAMMY nomination is a great joy. Protodeacon Anthony, a choir director in the Irkutsk Diocese and Metropolis, asked me not so long ago: “Have any choir directors of the Orthodox Church ever qualified for such an award? It is likely that this sets a precedent, and has never happened before.”

VA – Having a conservatory diploma in Choral Conducting, why did you decide to connect your creative life with church music?

VG – In my student years, I worked to feed a family with two children. It so happened that I lost my job. Undergraduate Alexei Muratov suggested that I be a chorister at the Representation Church of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in the men’s choir, conducted by Hieromonk Theodosius (Ushakov). I very quickly realized that it was providential: Hieromonk Theodosius himself said that there had never been such a case in his life that, two weeks after joining the choir, a newcomer could freely sing verses and troparia in the quartet in all eight tones. I repeated them every hour, singing in different tones. Then he met with the rector of the monastery, at that time Abbot Longin. He drew attention to the fact that my family and I had an inner desire to live according to the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. We have since become even closer to him. And somehow, at that time, Abbot Longin asked me a question: “Volodya, what do you really want to choose in life? For the stage of symphonic concert venues, people stand in long lines, but there are not enough professionals in the Church. Can you help the Church and become the choir director?”

Without hesitation, I immediately replied that I would help the Church exactly as much as I could and even more. And now, for more than twenty years, I have been serving the in my post as choir director, and do not want to leave it!

VA – How do you combine the duties of a choir director and conductor in your profession?

VG – When I work on any score, I always try to get into the very essence of the composition. I have two conservatory diplomas: in my third year at the Conducting & Choral Faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, I applied for admission to the class of Boris Grigorievich Tevlin. He introduced me to his student Igor Dronov. Having passed all of the exams, I entered the class of Opera and Symphony Conducting. In Russia, I had the opportunity to work with different symphonic and chamber orchestras. But along the way, Vladyka Longin asked me to switch to working with the choir. Fulfilling his blessing, I had to reduce my orchestral activity for some time, focusing on my work with the Choir of the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. In that time, we recorded more than fifteen CDs that became famous in America and Europe and are now published there.

VA – Are you cultivating the repertoire?

VG – The repertoire of the choir is based on such pillars of church creativity as the Znamenny chant and its interpretation by various composers. We constantly perform the sacred music of Chesnokov, Kastalsky, Grechaninov, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky. We pay a lot of attention to the composer Deacon Sergius Trubachev – my love for him is inexhaustible. I do not know of a single work created by this brilliant author that would not be suitable for singing in a church. Deacon Sergius was first a secular musician, he taught at the Gnesin Music & Pedagogical Institute, and then, upon meeting Archimandrite Matthew (Mormyl), he became increasingly active in liturgical composition.

VA – You are engaged in a truly ascetic missionary work. Can music bind cultures of people from different countries?

VG – I think every sensible and thoughtful musician should definitely pay attention to this question. Unfortunately, now the air smells of gunpowder. We all feel it. The personal position of each person who, like a monk before God, carries faith in the truth, helps. So everyone changes for the better; first of all, changing his own life, as the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov said: “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”

VA – And what about The Capital Symphony Orchestra? Why does Moscow need another such company?

VG – I have many colleagues who are instrumentalists in Russia, Canada, America, Europe, and Australia. Our Moscow and New York chapters of the Orchestra show us conclusively that the music community is united and wants to follow the path of goodness and service to others. There is even an idea of creating a chapter of The Capital Symphony Orchestra in Florence, Italy.

In Moscow, I regularly rehearse with The Capital Symphony Orchestra, and my assistants abroad also do a great job. At first we rehearsed at the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. Now an agreement has been signed for the orchestra to be based at the International Slavic Institute. The orchestra’s method is as follows: American musicians participate in Russian concerts, and Moscow musicians are included in the New York line-up. Also, these two chapters each perform on their own.

About forty people play in our Moscow orchestra; some of them are from other quite well-known companies – the E.F. Svetlanov State Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, “New Russia” … All these people are my associates. The orchestra is already an international organization. In New York, we are planning to hold a large “Russian-American Friendship in Manhattan” Festival. The festival’s program will include music by Russian composers, including authors from the 20th century such as Shostakovich, Sviridov, and Prokofiev, as well as works by American composers.

The cultivation of Russian and American cooperation in the name of peace, love, and harmony is simply a necessity in our day.

Why is there another orchestra in Moscow? After all, there are many people with many different opinions. We could also speak on the topic of conductors. How many conductors are there – so many interpretations, with so many desiring to perform the same classics. Yet, everywhere there is the right to one’s own voice in the presentation and interpretation of great works.