Konstantin Kovalev-Sluchevsky:

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All about Dmitry Bortniansky

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All about Bortniansky
.  - XVII .






Rambler's Top100

Table of contents of the page


  A brief biography of the composer Bortniansky (Dmitro Bortnjanskij, Dmitri Bortnjansky) see below

  Text of the book about Bortniansky (by Konstantin Kovalev) - in Russian see below

  Few words about the author of the book - K.Kovalev

  Some stories about this book, its creation and around publication of the book for the first time

     in the USSR (why it was impossible long time for the "Soviet Youth")

  Usual mistakes in the biography of the composer (on present time)

  About biography of Bortniansky - in Japanese

  All about Bortniansky's famous hymn "Kol slaven" ("How Glorious is Our Lord") see below

  Some articles about Bortniansky (and his epoch) by Konstantin Kovalev - in English


*  *  *

"Bortniansky": book  in a series "Life of outstanding people"

Konstantin Kovalev (Kovalev-Sluchevsky)


A biography of one of the most prominent of Russian composers of church music. This is a readable account of the composer's life, based on scholarly research but intended for the general reader as well as those who are already connoisseurs of Russian choral music.

Russian church music has always aroused interest in the West, and in the nineteenth century Russian choirs travelled all over Europe and America. But until recently, comparatively little has been known of the music of the eighteenth century. The most notable composer of this period was Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825), the author of a well-known "Liturgy", of the "All Night Vigil" and of the famous hymn "How Glorious is Our Lord" which was for a long time the Russian national anthem, played the chimes of the Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower.
Bortniansky also wrote operas and cantatas, symphonies and chamber music. He travelled outside Russia and lived in Italy for ten years, In New York there is a monument to him in one of the city's cathedrals and he was celebrated in the grand style in Paris with his works performed by a choir of two thousand voices.
The book is illustrated with virtually all the portraits and other pictures surviving which relate to Bortniansky's life and career. The book reflects Russian and European cultural life at the end of the eighteenth century, and illustrates, through the composer's career the major changes and developments taking place in the music, especially the choral music of the Russian church.

The author many years worked in domestic, foreign archives and libraries for collecting materials for a spelling of the books about brilliant Russian composer Dmitry Bortniansky, about starting point and development of Russian musical culture of 18th centuries. These books were published in different time. The book about Bortniansky and his epoch was published in a series "Life of outstanding people" (ZSL) by two editions (mass editions), translated into on foreign languages (unfortunately its not translated yet to the English). Now it is one of the main and capital works about the composer. Life of Russian of 18th century composer introducing Bortniansky and the achievement. Hiding in the shade of the masters of 19 centuries, it approaches to the real image of the musician who is not known excessively, searches the music circumstance of that time and the source of the Russian theology. However even earlier the manuscript ready for printing some years was not resolved for the edition in series ZSL (a special mass series for the Soviet youth). Composers creativity was considered dangerous to the Soviet readers because was too "spiritual". Even well-known spiritual church chanting of the composer the children's chorus sang with new "secular" words (not about the God, and about "the clear sun in the sky...", and so on).

On this page the information on Bortniansky and around his name, also a history of preparation and issue of the K.Kovalevs book and its subsequent destiny is collected.


Text of the book: "Bortniansky" (by Konstantin Kovalev)

Russian - HERE



Reproduced under edition:

Konstantin Kovalev. Bortniansky. Second edition. - Moskva: "Molodaia gvardiia"; "Russkoe slovo", 1998. - 271 p., illustr. - [Zhizn zamechatelnykh liudei (Life of outstanding people). Vol. 748 (701)]. ISBN 5-235-02308-0.


See also: Konstantin Kovalev. Bortniansky. First edition. - Moskva: "Molodaia gvardiia", 1989. - 304 p., illustr. - [Zhizn zamechatelnykh liudei (Life of outstanding people). Vol. 748 (701)]. ISBN 5-235-00681-X.





A brief biography of the Bortniansky (Bortnjanskij, Bortnjansky)


Bortniansky Dmitry Stepanovich (1751-1825)


Russian composer, studied with Galuppi in St. Petersburg and Venice. After producing two operas in Italy, in 1779 he returned to St. Petersburg. There, in 1796, he became director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, for which he set a high standard. He wrote mainly church music, combining Russian church style and Italian style. In 1881, Tchaikovsky completed an edition of his church music, published in 10 volumes.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.

A wealth of glorious treasures, a magnificent bounty was left to us by the exuberantly generous, incredibly talented Russian musical 18th century. St.Petersburg The glittering capital of 18th century Russia The first Russian operas, small, but priceless gems Russian songs, published in St.Petersburg in the mid-18th century, destined to speedily enchant all of Europe with their artless beauty, the birth of powerful instrumental music a sensation, worthy of being entered into the Guinness Book of Records! The 18th century became an acknowledged summit in the evolution of Russian church music, the result of eight centuries of existence of this most ancient music genre in Russia.
The brilliant Russian composer Dmitry Bortnyansky In just a matter of several dozen years ago, this name was almost the only one among the names of Russian composers of the 18th century which was familiar and acknowledged by the music world. What a remarkable paradox of history this is: the astoundingly rich, opulent Russian musical 18th century, which, in its time, had roused, with its exuberance and freshness, all of musical Europe and then almost two centuries of oblivion for Russian art of that period. Many of Bortnyanskys compositions are sensational discoveries, made in the second half of the 20th century, and one of the most generous sources of these are the archives of the St.Petersburg palaces.
Just several dozen years ago we were familiar with Dmitry Bortnyansky exclusively in the capacity of church composer. However, we are now wise to the fact that Bortnyansky authored over two hundred opuses, a major part of which are secular! To begin with, he acquired recognition as an opera composer. Incidentally, this fame began to take hold in Italy, where Bortnyansky studied for ten years. Later, he became court composer in the times of Catherine the Great. Still later, he worked at two courts: that of the Empress, and at the minor court of the future heir Pavel.
All of Bortnyanskys instrumental chamber music is written specifically for the minor court for concerts at the Pavlovsk palace, the environs of St.Petersburg. Among those who performed his music, were, traditionally, the royalty themselves. For example, Pavels wife, Maria Fyodorovna, was quite an appreciable harp player
Russian instrumental music of the 18th century is, perhaps, one of the most fascinating pages in the history of Russian music. After all, Russia is, traditionally, a vocal country. Of course, this doesnt mean Russians didnt have music instruments, but prior to the 18th century, these were exclusively folk. Throughout the entire period before that, professional art, in the course of some eight centuries, was strictly limited to the sphere of Russian church choral music acapella.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Russian art embarked on a vibrant dialogue with Europe as a result of which foreign guests ventured to make their way here the clavichord, flute, French horn, cello
It might seem practically inconceivable, but in under a century, Russia developed its own national instrumental school! This music doesnt require condescending concessions due to time factor And instrumental music of Maxim Berezovsky, another revelation of the 18th century which emerged just recently, is another proof to it. For two centuries nobody had an inkling of its existence, and Berezovsky was remembered, but vaguely, as a choral composer.
In the 18th century St.Petersburg and all of Russia were experiencing a musical boom. Quite a commendable fashion of the day, you have to agree: practically every person played at least some kind of music instrument. Moreover, believe it or not, but a great many people wrote music just for themselves. Listening to it, one can successfully gauge the general cultural atmosphere of the time...

The Voice of Russia




All about Bortniansky's hymn "Kol slaven" ("How Glorious is Our Lord")


Music (note) Hymn "Kol slaven"

of Bortnyansky, printed at the

beginning of the XIX century


          The well-known hymn - " " ("Kol slaven" or "How Glorious is Our Lord in Zion"; considered up to now as the Hymn of Russian emigration) was written by the composer with the text of poet M.M. Heraskov - at the end of XVIII century (version - 1822). Printed notes of this hymn are known.

     Some time was considered as formal national hymn of the Russian state (served for a considerable time as the national anthem of the Russian empire). It was frequently executed in public places and at assemblies.

     The hymn also was very popular outside Russia.

     In XX century the Hymn was executed with choruses of Russian emigration. Sometimes the melody sounded in performance of orchestras. Record of Russian emigrants (the rare edition), execution of the Hymn by an orchestra under A.A. Skrjabin's management and under protection of Association Russian Imperial Horse Guards and Horse Artillery in Paris (1950-th) is known.
     The tune composer wrote for a hymn popular with freemasons, traveled to English speaking countries and came to be known by the names Russia, St. Petersburg or Wells; in Germany, the song was paired with a text by Gerhard Tersteegen
(1697-1769; from one of his hymns), and became a well-known chorale and traditional closing piece to the military ritual Großer Zapfenstreich (the Ceremonial Tattoo).





Original German text:

Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe,
Die sich in Jesu offenbart;
Ich geb' mich hin dem freien Triebe,
Mit dem ich Staub geliebet ward.
Ich will, anstatt an mich zu denken,
Ins Meer der Liebe mich versenken.

Wie bist du mir so zart gewogen,
Und wie verlangt mein Herz nach dir;
Durch Liebe sanft und stark gezogen,
Neigt sich mein Alles auch zu dir!
Du traute Liebe, gutes Wesen,
Du hast mich und ich dich erlesen.

O Jesu, daß dein Name bliebe
Im Herzen tief gedrücket ein!
Möcht deine treue Jesusliebe
In Herz und Sinn gepräget sein!
Im Wort, im Werk und allem Wesen
Sei Jesus und sonst nichts zu lesen.



     Prior to the October revolution in 1917, the tune was played by the Moscow Kremlin carillon (in bell tower) every day at 15 o'clock and at 21 o'clock exactly.
     James Benjamin
Blish (an American author of fantasy and science fiction), who novelized many episodes of the original series of Star Trek, noted in one story, Whom Gods Destroy, that Bortniansky's "Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe" was the theme to which all Starfleet Academy classes marched to their graduation.

     Konstantin Kovalev-Slushevsky

 More in Russian about hymn

 (The text is written for publication)





The Title of the printed libretto of Bortniansky's opera "Creonte".
 The opera's premiere took place in Venice
(theatre "San Benedetto", 1776).



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