Russian Chant

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Historically, there were two types of church music in the Russian Orthodox Church, always unaccompanied: plainsong and figured music. The Byzantines first bequeathed to the Slavs their eight harmonic modes with varying intervals, but during centuries of foreign influence the simple Byzantine plainchant was replaced by diatonic modes with a penchant for figured music. The Kievian chant became a distinct form of Slav music after absorbing melodies originating in Greece, Bulgaria, Galicia, and Volhynia. Different chant brotherhoods of southwest Russia harmonized this plainchant at the end of the 16th and throughout the 17th century. It passed to Moscow and became the master-chant in all of Russia because of its simplicity and adaptability.

At about this same period a neo-Greek chant was imported to Russia by way of the Greek liturgical books and the general style of Greek usage favored by the Nikon reforms. It became the basic chant for the troparia, kontakia, and irmoi of Sundays, feast days, and occasions of solemnity.

The old form of simple chant in unison was discontinued and a harmonic chant (partesnoi penie) was introduced from southwest Russia. The Italian Renaissance was felt in all areas of Russian art and architecture, but especially in religious music. Giuseppe Sarti and Baldassare Galuppi were masters for generations of Russian composers who studied in Italy. Bortiniansky (d. 1825) is typical of the Russian composers who had studied in Italy and those whose polyphonic arrangements were imitated and copied during the greater part of the 19th century in Russia. However, toward the end of the 19th century a reaction against Italian influence began in Russian liturgical music, led by Tourtchaninov and Michael Glinka. Meanwhile, Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov continued the harmonization of the old sacred melodies that today are the most used in the Russian Church.

Bibliography: a. d. mccredie, "Some Aspects of Current Research into Russian Liturgical Chant," Miscellanea Musicologica 6 (1972) 55152. v. morosan, "Penie and Musikiia: Aesthetic Changes in Russian Liturgical Singing during the Seventeenth Century," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 23 (1979) 14979. n. schidlovsky, "Sources of Russian Chant Theory," in Russian Theoretical Thought in Music, ed. g. d. mcquere (Ann Arbor, 1983) 83108. d. e. conomos, The Late Byzantine and Slavonic Communion Cycle: Liturgy and Music (Washington DC, 1985). j. von gardner, On the Synodal Chant Books of the Russian Church and their Usage in Today's Practice (Glen Cove, NY, 1987). k. levy, "The Slavic Reception of Byzantine Chant," in Christianity and the Arts in Russia, ed. w. c. brumfield and m. m. velimirovie<ogonek> (Cambridge, 1991) 4651.

[g. a. maloney/eds.]