Dimitri Bortnyansky - The Music of An Orthodox Classical Music Composer
A Live Performance by the Osanna Chamber Ensemble
Today, too many dismiss Bortnyansky’s compositions as ‘merely’ Italianate Galante artifacts - yet his output is undeniably a cornerstone of Russian Orthodox liturgical singing to this day. As a group equally comfortable in singing Western European as we are Eastern European music, Osanna Chamber Ensemble is uniquely equipped to tackle the question: What about Borntiansky’s music has for centuries moved people in prayer, and why does it continue to do so today?
In 1789 Russia, liturgical music was at a point of crisis. Nobility, clergy and laypeople maintained a great variety of opinions about the appropriate direction for their sacred music, placing enormous pressure on the people creating that music. Returning from studies in Italy, composer Dmitry Bortniansky received a royal invitation to continue his work in St. Petersburg shortly after his contemporary, Maxim Berezovsky, had taken his own life. In an exceedingly complex environment, Berezovsky had begun what Bortniansky would go on to complete: the creation of an effective synthesis of the compositional language used at the time in Italy with his intimate knowledge of the ancient aesthetics of Orthodox Christian chant and liturgical arts in general. A heavy weight born on Bortniasnky’s shoulders indeed, and an undertaking which would change the course of music and history.
By juxtaposing Bortnyansky’s liturgical harmonizations with several of his more para-liturgical choral concerti, our concert program aims to demystify the essence of his compositional language. Armed with a nuanced and informed musicological approach and a deeply rooted love for this music, the goal of our upcoming concert is to cultivate a stylistic approach to unlock the treasures of Bortniansky’'s works by decoding his compositional language.
Library fires, a lack of research in sacred music throughout the Soviet period, and the utilitarian nature of Bortniansky’s music have led to a multitude of unanswered questions. There are even those who bitterly maintain that there is simply no place in liturgy for this music. Despite all this and more, we continue to chant Bortniansky’s music across the Orthodox world.
What is the value of Bortniansky’s music to Orthodox prayer of yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Join us - and decide for yourself - as we explore these questions in concerts on October 26th and 27th in NYC.