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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 Tradition.
    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.

     XVIII century
    "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     24:45

excerpts, Monk Christopher's Manuscript, 1604

Antiphon 15  ("We Worship Thy Suffering, O Christ...")
Troparion. Part 8 ("When the Glorious Disciples...")
Antiphon 1. Part 8 ("The Words of This Law...")
Reading I
Antiphon 2. Part 6. ("Judas Hastened...")
Reading II
Antiphon 3. Part 2. ("Little Vespers...")
Reading III
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
(reading, singing)

Ancient Russian Chants
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

Tatiana Muratova, soprano
Jeanne Polevtsova, mezzo-soprano
Sergei Rokozitsa, tenor
Gennady Bezzubenkov, bass

Vedel (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 maestoso 3:58
10. II. Adagio 2:56
11. III. Allegro 2:17

The Glinka Choir
Conductor, Vladislav Chernushenko

Total time - 67:43

cover painting "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