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The Passions in Russian Tradition
Excerpts from Monk Christopher's manuscript, 1604
The early monophonic Slavic chant was called
"Znamenny". The Slavic word "znamia" means "a
sign". Many different signs were used for notation of Znamenny chant.
Each of them symbolized a group of short patterns suitable for interpretation.
Trained singers used over a hundred melodic patterns to interpret each symbol.
No one heard about plagiarism at that time! In fact it was a great
opportunity to express individuality and talent. Specific usage of these
melodic clichés led to the development of local schools of singing.
Could the same approach be seen in works by Bach, Haydn and
other prolific composers, in later establishments of national music schools?
Monk Christopher's Manuscript combines songs of the late
sixteenth century when Znamenny chant reached its apex. They are written after
Biblical texts and all together form the Orthodox Liturgy - Passions in Russian
The three Ancient Russian Chants in this program are an
example of 'strochny singing'. This style was officially recognized by the
Russian Orthodox Church in 1551, when Tsar Ivan the Terrible suggested the Synod
introduce it to all the churches in Moscow. Melodies of 'strochny singing' grew
from monophonic Znamenny and Demestvenny chants. The polyphonic texture was
inherited from Novgorodian folk songs and instrumental music.
'Strochny singing', like Russian folk music, does not have a division of voices
in soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Everyone sings in the convenient register and
the melody is performed by the most experienced singer. The range of a melody
rarely exceeds an octave.
The XVIIth century marks the beginning of a new period
of Russian history. Already in the XVIIth century Russian choirs sang all church
hymns in parts, rejecting monophonic Znamenny chant. Russian part concert,
contrary to catholic music, was purely vocal - a capella. Dramatic mood was not
a feature of Russian Baroque either.
Most Russian 'part concerts' are written in the major key;
they are filled with joy, triumph and exultation. "Thou Art a Consolation
of All the Afflicted", a concerto for twelve-part choir by Vasily Titov,
was composed to celebrate the victory of Peter the Great at Poltava.
"Western influence came to Moscow in Ukrainian
clothes"- Vedel, Bortnyansky and Berezovsky. Having been educated in
Italy, Berezovsky and Bortnyansky brought the tradition of Italian bel canto and
Western polyphonic techniques to Russia. Berezovsky established the genre of
Russian choral concert, combining Slavic choral traditions and Western
polyphony. The texture of his choral concerts is rich and developed.
Numerous solo passages, and opposition of groups and tutti are associated very
much with the genre of concerto grosso. Three, or four contrasting movements
usually make up the form. Vedel and Bortnyansky continued the development of the
genre of Russian choral concert. Their ideals of harmony and clarity of forms
foretold the classical period of Russian music in "Lord,
now lettest thou..." by Vedel, "Cherubical Hymn" and "Te
Deum Laudamus" by Bortnyansky.
Russian church music eventually became a major priority for
the Glinka Choir. Vladislav Chernushenko, director of the choir,
succeeded in convincing the atheist-minded Soviet officials of the necessity to
include forgotten masterpieces of Russian church music in their repertoire.
Chernushenko was lucky to find and bring to the public forgotten
works by Dmitry Bortnyansky, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and other
great Masters of the past...Their performance restored the entirety of Russian
musical tradition and made its roots much more obvious.
©2003 Evgeni Kostitsyn
1. The Passions in Russian Tradition
excerpts, Monk Christopher's Manuscript, 1604
15 ("We Worship Thy Suffering, O Christ...")
Troparion. Part 8 ("When the Glorious Disciples...")
Antiphon 1. Part 8 ("The Words of This Law...")
Antiphon 2. Part 6. ("Judas Hastened...")
Antiphon 3. Part 2. ("Little Vespers...")
Antiphon 5. Part 6. ("The Disciple of the Master...")
Hymn to the Birth Giver of God
The Trisagion of Good Friday
Galina Dolbonos, mezzo-soprano
Vladimir Starodubtsev, bass
2. Praise the Lord, Oh My Soul 1:17
3. Meet It Is 2:22
4. O Holy God 2:25
Berezovsky (1745 - 1777)
6. Cast Me Not Off in the
Time of Old Age 10:07
concerto for four-part choir
Jeanne Polevtsova, mezzo-soprano
Sergei Rokozitsa, tenor
Gennady Bezzubenkov, bass
(c. 1770 - 1808)
7. Lord, Now Lettest Thou... 5:04
Bortnyansky (1751 - 1825)
8. Cherubical Hymn 4:33
Te Deum Laudamus, cantata for two choirs
9. I. Allegro
10. II. Adagio 2:56
11. III. Allegro 2:17
Conductor, Vladislav Chernushenko
time - 67:43
"Shroud of Christ" by Malevich
Recording engineer - Tsess.
'Excerpts, Monk Christopher's Manuscript'
and 'Ancient Russian Chants' were recorded
in 1986; Titov, Berezovsky, Vedel, and
Bortnyansky were recorded in 1987.
Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn