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Thread: Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825)

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    Default Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825)

    Just a couple of days ago I picked up a recent Naxos release of music by Dmitry Bortniansky. I had never heard of him before but was intrigued by this Russian contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven.

    The CD, titled "I cried out to the Lord", features two hymns and eight choral concertos (for soloists and double chorus).

    According to the booklet, Bortniansky was the "first native Kapellmeister to the Russian Czars". He composed several operas but also many sacred works, all choral (since the Orthodox Church did not allow instruments in their music).

    He studied in Italy and later became director of the Russian Imperial Court Chapel, which, in 1824, performed the world premiere of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.

    The booklet also quotes Berlioz, who had travelled to Russia and later wrote about a performance of a work by Bortniansky, which, according to Berlioz, featured "an entanglement of voice parts that seemed impossible: vague murmurs as one sometimes hears in dreams and attacks that, in their intensity, resembled outbursts, seizing the heart all of the sudden".

    After a first listen, I really like the CD. The pieces do not sound particularly Russian, though, to my ears, certainly not in any cliché sort of way. They feature several different styles, from plainchant to fugues. The concertos are quite short, between 5-10 minutes, individual movements last sometimes less than a minute. The lyrics are sung in (historically informed) Church Slavonic and are taken almost entirely from the Book of Psalms.

    I understand that Bortniansky's collected choral concertos (fifty in total) were published in several volumes edited by none other than Tchaikovsky, apparently an admirer of Bortniansky's work.
    "What's intended in this end section of course is a sort of, how shall I say, exhilirating immersion in total negation - which itself produces a sort of sublimity." - Brian Ferneyhough

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    I've heard a couple of the choral concertos (I forget which) and they are very beautiful.

    I think his best known piece is probably the Cherubic Hymn No.7 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJlpazplonw - which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

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    Default Dmitry Bortniansky

    Recently many youth works from Dmitry Bortniansky have been released. The musical quality is amazing!

    In 1779 Bortniansky wrote the opera Quinto Fabio:



    The Russian Album:



    Sacred Concertos:



    Aria from Alcide 1778

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