THE MOSCOW SYNODAL CHOIR
The Synodal Choir, one of the oldest professional choirs in Russia, was founded in Moscow in 1721. The Patriarchal Choir of singing sextons, which appeared in the 16th century, served as a basis for the Synodal Choir. Originally, the Patriarchal Choir included only male singers from the clergy. The singing remained monophonic until the middle of the 17th century; later on, the choir began singing polyphonic scores, which brought children’s voices (altos and child sopranos) into the group. When the Patriarchate was abolished in 1700, the choir became known as “sobornal” (cathedral), and was attached to the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin. Following the establishment of the Holy Synod in 1721, the choir was transferred to this congregation, and became known as the Synodal Choir. During the 17th – 18th centuries, the performance of patriarchal choristers and the future Synodal Choir rivaled in musicality and craftsmanship, and presented a kind of “Moscow” parallel of a choir composed of monarchic singing sextons, renamed the Court Choir under Peter the Great, and subsequently transferred to Saint Petersburg.
At the turn of the 19th–20th centuries, the choir’s repertoire had greatly expanded thanks to the inclusion of secular music and arrangements of Russian folk songs. Many Moscow composers wrote specially for the Synodal Choir. At one point in time, even Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky took an active part in the activities of the choir. When the Russian Patriarchate was restored in 1917, the choir kept its own historic name. During the Easter of 1918, the Kremlin cathedrals were closed down and the choir ceased to exist.
Today’s Moscow Synodal Choir was revived in the spring of 2009, when Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk was appointed Father Superior of the Church of the Joy of All Who Sorrow. The Synodal Choir was revived on the basis of the choir of the famous church located in Bolshaya Ordynka, where the traditions of the Moscow School of choral church music had been preserved by the choirmaster, Nikolai Matveyev, ever since 1948. Over many years, the choir of the Church of the Joy of All Who Sorrow, under the direction of N. Matveyev, recorded and propagated Russian sacred music on gramophone records. Alexey Puzakov became one of the choirmasters of the Skorbyashchenskiy Church (All Who Sorrow) in the 1980s. After the death of N. Matveyev in 1933, many traditions initiated by the latter were interrupted, the musical library of the Skorbyashchenskiy choir was lost, whereas the choir itself lost many members and became an ordinary chamber music ensemble. Not long ago, Alexey Puzakov accepted the position of choirmaster of the Skorbyashchenskiy Church, and managed to unite the creative forces of eighty singers. Besides participating in solemn liturgies, the Moscow Synodal Choir also performs concert programs. The choir works with the Russian National Orchestra and the P.I. Tchaikovsky Grand Symphony Orchestra; it is also involved in programs designed for Moscow Christmas and Easter festivals, and takes part in important international church projects.
Alexey Puzakov, Honored Artist of Russia, is artistic director of the Moscow Synodal Choir.