Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest

Programme notes

Russian choral music

Musical Manuscripts of the 16th - 18th Centuries From the Collections of St. Petersburg
1. Cherubical hymn of the Great Saturday. Znamenny chant. (06:20)
2. Two Christmass hymns. Strochny Polyphony (03:00+05:30)
3. Hymn Ethernal Light. Znamenny Polyphony (01:45)
4. Great Prokimenon. Znamenny chant and Strochny Polyphony (03:35)
5. Polyeleos. Strochny Polyphony (02:45)
6. Two magnifications to the Holy Cross. Early Partes polyphony. (02:30)
7. Hymn to the Holy Cross. Early Partes polyphony. (03:30)
8. Only Begotten Son. Demestvo polyphony. (02:30)
9. Cherubical Hymn. Demestvo polyphony. (05:00)
10. The Eucharistic Canon. Strochny Polyphony (04:45)
11. Hymn to the Mother of God. Strochny Polyphony with ison (04:00)
12. Communion verse of the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Pope. Znamenny chant of the Ukrainian 
tradition. (02:20)
13. Thanksgiving after Communion. Early Partes polyphony (01:50)
14. Concert to St. Avraamy of Rostov. Partes polyphony for a five-voice choir.(02:45)
15. Hymn to the Mother of God. Partes chant of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (02:40

The second half of the 17th century became a turning point for Old Russian music. Prosperous seeds of Western European musical art germinated on the fertile soil of Russian melos. Canonical monophonic chants formed the basis for harmonic works in a new style, which in musicology was named Early Partes. The period from the second half of the 17th century to the end of the first half of the 18th century is also so fascinating because old monophony, Old Russian dissonant polyphony, and new harmonic music coexisted peacefully in song practice.

Along with the new music came linear musical notation to Russia. The music of the new era was often written down according to the Old Russian neume-notation for rapid dissemination. The works of Old Russian polyphony were in turn recorded in notes on five lines. It is these manuscripts in which the amazing sounds of the polyphony of ancient Russia came to us.

By the second half of the 18th century, the Early Partes and Old Russian polyphony gave way to Italian influences. The manuscripts containing the ancient chants became museum pieces. Many of these manuscripts are preserved in the libraries of St. Petersburg. Daniel Sayapin, founder and artistic director of the Ex Libris Ensemble, has been researching these manuscripts for more than 25 years. In this concert during the Gergiev Festival, Ex Libris will perform this amazing music.

The fact that most of these chants were written down at the time on paper manufactured in the Netherlands in the 17th century, makes this program even more interesting.


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