Church Music in the Creativity of Russian Composers at the Turn of the XIX-XX Centuries

Russian sacred music in its formation and development has gone through several periods. Like the entire church, it existed in the closest interaction with Russian society and experienced its noticeable influence. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, many so-called musicians turned to this musical genre. secular composers. They not only composed liturgical music, but also directly participated in the work of church choral groups.

A significant contribution to the musical church culture of the last quarter of the 19th century was made by A.A. Arkhangelsky (1846 - 1924). A graduate of the Penza Theological Seminary, head of the bishop's choir since 1872, he was in the Petersburg Singing Chapel, taught singing at the Alexander Lyceum. Arkhangelsky wrote more than eighty compositions, including two original "Liturgies", "Vespers", eleven Cherubim songs, ten "A Mercy of Peace" hymns, sixteen chants used in worship instead of "sacrament verses." In addition, he proved himself to be a regent. Arkhangelsky made an innovation in the organization of church choirs: in 1885 he replaced the boys with women. This made it possible to have a permanent composition of the choir and reach the heights of performing skills.

In the same period, a new page in the history of Russian church singing opens, associated with the Moscow Synodal Choir, whose director was the outstanding church choir director and musicologist, professor of the Moscow Conservatory S.V. Smolensky, and A.A. Kastalsky. Together with the choir, there was a Synodal School with an eight-year musical education.

Alexander Dmitrievich Kastalsky (1856–1926) was the son of a priest, Moscow archpriest Dimitriy Kastalsky. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory, taught and conducted various choirs in the provinces. From 1887 he worked in various positions, including director, at the Synodal School and the Synodal Choir. He was often called "Vasnetsov in music", since he was the first to prove the organic nature of the combination of ancient Russian chants with the methods of folk peasant polyphony, as well as with the traditions established in kliros practice, and with the experience of the Russian composing school.

Kastalsky is the author of about two hundred spiritual works and transcriptions, which formed the basis of the choir (mostly concert) repertoire of the Synodal Choir. The composer himself characterized his work as follows: “In my opinion, this (church songwriting - approx.) Task should be the idealization of genuine church tunes, transforming them into something musically sublime, strong in its expressiveness and close to the Russian heart with a typical nationality ... Inspirational improvisation of ancient psalms - this is the ideal of the church solo. I would like to have such music, which can not be heard anywhere except in the temple, which would be as different from secular music as liturgical clothes from secular costumes. "

Stepan Vasilyevich Smolensky (1848–1909) was born in Kazan, into a family that combined the traditions of the Russian intelligentsia and the clergy. After graduating from the Faculty of Law and Philology of Kazan University, together with the educator N.I. Ilminsky, he founded the Kazan Teachers' Seminary, where he taught singing, after which he headed the Moscow Synodal School, while at the same time holding the position of professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Then for two years he headed the Court Chapel, was engaged in scientific activities. It is difficult to overestimate his role in the revival of ancient church chants, an appeal to national origins.

The name of Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov (1877–1944) ranks among the outstanding church composers of this period. The son of the Moscow Region choir director, a graduate of the Synodal School and the Moscow Conservatory since the 1900s, Chesnokov gained great fame as a choir director and author of more than five hundred choral works, including original compositions and transcriptions for the church choir. For a long time he directed the Moscow church choirs, was the choirmaster of the Bolshoi Theater. After the revolution, he was forced to leave church activities, nevertheless, in 1940 his great work by P. G. Chesnokov, "The Choir and How to Direct It", was published, which was an encyclopedia of choral work.

Famous secular composers M.L. Balakirev (1837–1910) and N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1909) were directly related to church music Balakirev in 1883 became the head of the Court Singing Chapel, and Rimsky-Korsakov became his deputy. Both composers strove to return to their national roots, and in 1888 the chapel published the "All-night vigil of ancient chants", where the ancient znamenny melodies were harmonized "in the spirit of folk art", however, they did not take root in practice, as well as their own church compositions. ...

A prominent church composer of the late 19th - first half of the 20th century was A.T. Grechaninov (1864–1956), a student of Rimsky-Korsakov, a successor to The Mighty Handful. The son of a Kaluga merchant began to study music only at the age of seventeen, having entered the Moscow Conservatory. Most of his church works were written before the revolution, however, in exile, he continued to compose sacred music. Peru Grechaninov wrote cycles of church chants "Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom", "All-night Vigil", "Passion Week" and many individual choral numbers, among the most famous of them is "It is Truly Meet". In exile, he also wrote free style spiritual works, with the participation of an organ, as well as works for Protestant choirs with texts in English.

A special place in the church-musical culture is occupied by the works of S.V. Rachmaninoff (1873-1943). In 1910, Rachmaninov created the "Divine Liturgy", and in 1915 - the "All-Night Vigil". If "Liturgy" is a work of the author's creativity, then the basis of most of the numbers of the "All-night vigil" are commonly used church chants. The technical complexity of Rachmaninoff's spiritual works has led to the fact that they are rarely performed in churches, much more often they sound on the stage of concert halls.

After the 1917 revolution, the development of liturgical music in Russia came to a standstill, only in emigration did composers have the opportunity to turn to this genre.

Source: (Russian)

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