The remarkable composer Dmitry Stepanovich Bortnyansky (1751–1825) is chiefly remembered in Russian cultural history as a master of Orthodox church music, although the complete list of over 200 works includes operas, instrumental concertos, sonatas and symphonies. A brilliant composer blessed with an ability to write with sincerity and spontaneity, he was also director of the Imperial Chapel Choir and an official censor of sacred music. Bortnyansky is unique among contemporary Russian colleagues since his music was not forgotten after his death but is still loved and admired today. Maybe the composer’s destiny would have taken a less fortunate turn if his youth and formative years as a musician had not coincided with the ‘Golden Age’ in the reign of Catherine the Great.
Jacob von Staehlin, ‘director of all the arts’ at the Russian Academy of Sciences wrote in his diary for 1769: ‘What lofty heights painting, culture and architecture have achieved in just a few years, to which she has erected a splendid shrine in St. Petersburg – the Academy! Nor has music … been forgotten by the Empress, for it has begun to scintillate at court with a new and unprecedented brilliance.
Total time: 00:55:11
Microphones – Neumann km130 DPA (B & K) 4006 ; DPA (B & K) 4011 SCHOEPS mk2S ; SCHOEPS mk41
|Original Recording Format|
Erdo Groot, Roger de Schot
5th Studio of the Russian Television and Radio, Moscow, Russia
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|Release Date||October 23, 2015|
Le Monde de la Musique
Dmitri Bortnianski became a chorister at the Imperial Chapel. He worked in St. Petersburg with Baldassare Galuppi, and shortly after Galuppi’s return to Venice, Bortnianski followed him there, continuing to work under his tutelage. He benefited from the teachings of Padre Martini in Bologna and stayed in Rome, Modena, and Naples. Returning to Russia in 1779 after composing several operas in Italy, he conducted the chapel of Catherine II, then in 1796 that of his successor Paul I. He composed works for the stage, then specialized in religious music, advocating a careful study of the neumatic songs of the 12′ and 13th centuries, which he said should “contribute to the birth of a new style, a Joncièrement Russian school”.
This album contains works from his Italian period. Some have only recently been discovered. All of them make the ears stand up. Il Quinto Fabio, considered the last of his Italian operas, was premiered at the court of Modena in 1778. The four beautiful motets, dated from 1775 to 1778, pit a soprano-alto-bass vocal trio, a soprano-contralto duo, a solo soprano, and a four-voice choir against the instrumental ensemble (most often with winds). The Pratum Integrum Orchestra offers us real discoveries in high-flying performances.
Dimitry Bortnyansky, one of the few Russian composers of the eighteenth century whose works are at all played in the West, made an Italian journey when he was in his twenties, in the late 1770s. The purpose was further study with his teacher, Baldassare Galuppi, whom Catherine the Great had brought to Russia.
While he was there he fulfilled various commissions for secular and sacred vocal works, which are sampled on this album. The subject matter seems slight for all but specialists, but the music has a distinctive style. The album is also noteworthy for being one of the few historical-instrument recordings to emanate from Russia thus far.
The Pratum Integrum Orchestra has a very unusual sound that listeners should liberally sample. Both their playing and the recording itself hold to a very low dynamic range, with the orchestra’s natural horns and trumpets blending with the strings in a kind of haze of sound. The high point may come at the very beginning with a three-movement Sinfonia in C Major, extracted from an opera called Il Quinto Fabio. It works fine as an independent work and has an impressive spatial reach. The secular arias that follow are hampered by pitch insecurities on the part of the female vocal soloists, but things pick up with the four motets on the second half of the recording. The last three of these, like the arias in the first half, have never been recorded before. They’re little Classical-style pieces with solo and ensemble numbers, accompanied by a small orchestra.
The booklet notes emphasize Bortnyansky’s indebtedness to the language of opera seria, but his melody is more natural than that of his Italian contemporaries and represented an independent discovery of the straightforward language and emotional range of the late eighteenth century. The Ave Maria for soprano, alto, and orchestra (1775), especially, is simple and fresh. An offbeat album, nicely recorded, that will be of most interest to collectors of Russian music.
Arizona Public Media SACD Review: DMITRY BORTNYANSKY/”THE ITALIAN ALBUM
Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751–1825), a longer-lived Russian contemporary of Mozart, is remembered today chiefly for his important contributions to Russian Orthodox church music. But a splendid SACD by the Russian period-instrument orchestra Pratum Integrum demonstrates that there was far more to Bortnansky than solemn, bass-rich hymns. He spent much of the 1770s in Italy, studying with Baldassare Galuppi, and his music from that period, both secular and sacred, compares favorably to that of the two greatest composers of the day, Mozart and Haydn.
About half this disc samples Bortnyansky’s modest but idiomatic contributions to the Italian opera stage; the second half is devoted to motets, some in single movements, some multi-movement works. The disc opener, the overture to the opera Il quinto Fabio , is energetic (and exuberantly played), solidly crafted and rather Haydnesque (inspired by his Sturm und Drang manner, but happy rather than stormy and stressful). The vocal pieces, arias and motets alike, are more reminiscent of Mozart’s sacred music. All in all, there’s real vitality, rather than mere busyness, to this music, and true grace in the slower vocal movements, where lesser composers might merely trudge.
The surround sonics are extraordinarily natural, as is usual from this label. If you’re interested in the Classical era beyond Mozart and Haydn, this would be a fine disc for you to hear.
American Record Guide
The name Bortniansky immediately brings to mind the founder of the great modern literature of Russian Orthodox liturgical music-leaving a heritage and momentum that his many epigones never quite equaled. But Dmitri Stepanovich Bortniansky (1751-1825) was actually a composer of considerable breadth, beyond that familiar identity.
As a youth in the Russian Imperial Court Choir, his potential was recognized. He was given instruction by the Italian master Galuppi, then resident in St Petersburg, and on Galuppi’s advice the teenage Ukrainian was allowed to follow his teacher to Italy. There Bortniansky became totally immersed in the Italian musical styles of his day and was sponsored in a wide range of compositional experience, including Italian opera and Latin church music. Called back to the Russian court by Catherine the Great in 1779, Bortniansky was set on the course of redirecting Russia’s Orthodox church music. He continued to write secular music for the court. Much of that has been lost, but in recent years some Russian-made recordings have begun exploring his non -Orthodox music, while what survives is still being sorted out.
This program, from a new Moscow label I have not encountered before, is an important example and a model contribution to the catalog. The nine selections all date from the composer’s Italian years. First, operatic material: the three movement Sinfonia to his 1778 opera Il Quinto Fabio (libretto by Apostolo Zeno), plus two arias that became part of that score; and a French aria from the same year. Then a fugal ‘Amen’ for four-voice choir and strings, demonstrating his contrapuntal mastery. Finally, four examples of Latin sacred motets in the then-current Italian style, for soloist(s) with small orchestra, adding a chorus in one. Little of this music has been recorded before, so there is an element of novelty and freshness. This music is, if not dazzling, still very accomplished-certainly up to the standards of Galuppi and his peers-and sometimes even outstanding. It’s also always very enjoyable.
And it is all performed very well here. The three singers are excellent, each with a fine voice and a firm stylistic grasp: they are worthy of an international career. The chorus, which appears to consist of the Russian Patriarchal Choir and Moscow Boys Capella, sings in only two selections but sounds quite comfortable in what we would consider a Mozartean choral sound. The orchestra, consisting of 24 players, sounds a little rough, but nevertheless shows that Russians can add to the rank of period-instruments ensembles. The recorded sound is bright and full-bodied. The booklet has multilingual notes but no texts. Otherwise, cordially recommended for musical as well as novelty value.
With a symphony, two opera arias, a canzonetta, three motets, and a choral joint, all of which were created between 1775 and 1778, Dmitri Bortniansky is portrayed here from an unknown side.
The fiery esprit of the Italian-influenced instrumental movement and the favorability of the melodies can immediately convince, especially since the Russian Baroque orchestra “Pratum Integrum” offers an almost optimal mixture of accent and sound culture.
Small smears, which have to be made with the nine-member boys’ choir, are fully compensated by very good performances of the three vocal soloists.
Opus Haute Définition: D. Bortnyansky The Italian Album
Le compositeur ukrainien Dimitri Bortnyansky fut un musicien « discret ». Des quelques 200 partitions qu’il a laissées, seuls ses chants sacrés sont aujourd’hui relativement connus. Elève du compositeur italien Baldassare Galuppi, Bortnyansky étudie à ses côtés, le clavecin et la théorie musicale tout en se perfectionnant pour le chant. Avec lui, dans la cité des Doges, il s’essaye à l’opéra « Créonte » avec un succès évident et poursuit dans cette voie avec deux autres œuvres lyriques, « Alcide et Quinto Fabio ». Avec cinq opéras, plusieurs concertos pour clavecin, de nombreux chants, plus d’une centaine de chorals, des concertos pour quatre voix et deux chœurs, des motets, des liturgies ainsi que des adaptations de cantiques russes, la musique du compositeur soviétique fut décrite ainsi en 1847 par Hector Berlioz : « Dans ses œuvres, on trouve une rare expérience du groupement des masses vocales, une prodigieuse entente des nuances, une harmonie sonore et, chose surprenante, une incroyable liberté dans la disposition des parties, un mépris souverain des règles respectées par ses prédécesseurs comme par ses contemporains et surtout par les italiens dont il est censé être le disciple » L’enregistrement qui nous occupe aujourd’hui, baptisé The Italian Album, regroupe l’ouverture de l’opéra « Il quinto Fabio » avec deux arias du même opéra, quatre motets, une Canzonetta et une fugue. Magnifiquement défendu par l’ensemble Pratum Integrum Orchestra, ces pièces nous donne le réel désir de redécouvrir un compositeur peut-être un peu trop sous estimé. Côté prise de son, ce Super Audio CD stéréo ou multicanal fait montre d’un bel équilibre naturel de restitution des différents plans sonores.
Clic Musique! Bortnyansky: L’album Italien
Dmitry Bortnyansky (1751-1825) est resté dans l’histoire de la culture russe avant tout comme le maître reconnu de la musique sacrée Orthodoxe
La liste de ses quelques 200 oeuvres connues, inclue également des opéras, des concertos, des sonates, des symphonies…
Plus de 600 manuscrits ont été déposés après la mort du compositeur dans les archives du Chœur de la Cour de Katerina la Grande où il été Maître de chapelle – seulement une vingtaine a perduré jusqu’à nos jours. Des 5 opéras dans le style italien dont nous avons connaissance, seulement 2 nous sont parvenus ainsi que les quelques airs récemment découverts et présents sur ce disque en première mondiale
Pratum Integrum est un orchestre dédié à la musique ancienne, le seul ensemble russe intégrant tous les groupes d’instruments historiques. Le répertoire de Pratum Integrum est conçu dans le but de présenter à l’audience des œuvres totalement inconnues jusqu’alors. Une recherche active a été initiée ce qui a permis la redécouverte de la première symphonie russe, « Sinfonia en do majeur » de M. Berezovsky ou bien du premier opéra de D. Bortnyansky, « Creonte » qu’on pensait perdu à jamais. L’origine de Pratum Integrum remonte à 1993 quand « L’ensemble de Musique Ancienne » a été créé au Conservatoire de Moscou par le grand pianiste et claveciniste Alexei Lyubimov. Depuis 2003, l’orchestre s’est constitué en un ensemble professionnel. Pratum Integrum Orchestra n’a pas de directeur musical, mais des chefs invités comme Sigizwald Kuijken ou Trevor Pinnock qui ont eu l’occasion de se produire à la tête de l’ensemble.
Audiophile Audition Review: BORTNYANSKY: The Italian Album
Dmitry Bortnyansky is almost exclusively known as the father of the Russian Orthodox liturgical choral tradition (for a truly superb cross-section of that work, get the excellent
Powers of Heaven SACD on Harmonia Mundi – very highly recommended). His combined output exclusive of his liturgical works totaled more than 200 other
compositions, including operas, concertos, sonatas and symphonies. Manuscripts
for most of these are lost, and the remaining works in general have been largely
forgotten, with only fragments of his five operas and various motets remaining.
Bortnyansky showed great promise as a youthful choirboy in the court of
Catherine the Great, and the Italian composer Galuppi (also a member of
Catherine’s court) begged to be allowed to take him to Venice for further
education. The selections on this excellent disc are taken from his output
during that period, hence the name, “The Italian Album.”
Although all of the selections are performed on period instruments, there’s none of the
harshness or “thinness” sometimes associated with historical performances. The
vocalists are superb; soprano Galina Knysh, who most often gets the spotlight,
has a purity of tone and range that are equally impressive and thrilling to hear
– she hits the really extended notes effortlessly. Most of the works here have a
real chamber feel to them, but when the combined forces of choirs, orchestra and
soloists join together on the finale, it’s both passionate and majestic. As with
the Bach disc noted above, every aspect of the sound presentation is superb, and
bodes well for Caro Mitis. Very highly recommended.
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