It is generally believed that organ music appeared in Russia about 150 years ago with the opening of the conservatoires in St Petersburg and Moscow. Friedrich Ladegast’s organ, which was used on this recording and is believed to be the oldest surviving organ in Russia, dates back to that era. In reality it was not merely 150 years but, rather, a thousand years ago that organ music entered Russia culture together with other forms of Byzantine art.
Organ has never been used by the Russian Orthodox Church, although for centuries it has been part of of ordianry life in the palaces of tsars and emperors, in the homes of nobility and of wealthy and educated people. It also became popular in folk art, with wandering buffoons but in 16th and 17th centuries their form of art was banned and their instruments destroyed.
At various times organists from Italy, Flanders and elsewhere came to Russia. They brought their music with them, settled and worked in the country. Owners of organs also loved to perform music. Home concerts became a refined form of entertainment and a significant element of social life.
Professional organ music emerged in Russia early in 19th century when composing music was no longer seen merely as entertainment but as an art form in its own right. Friedrich Ladegast's organ, the oldest instrument in Russia (built in 1868) was commissioned by Distinguished Citizen Vassili Khludov who organised concerts in his home. During the Soviet period, no one could afford an organ at home and Soviet school of organ performance originated in the Moscow Conservatoire which housed Ladegast's organ from 1898 to 1957. Today, when electronic organs have become quite affordable organ music can be performed at home once again.
Ladegast's organ has been housed in the Russian National Museum of Music since 1998 which is where this album was recorded.