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Cat. No. CHAN 9783 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9783 - Bortnyansky: Sacred Concertos, Vol. 2
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Available From: 17 February 2000
Bortnyansky was admitted to the imperial chapel choir at the age of eight and was a pupil of Galuppi. At the age of twenty-five he had his first operatic success with ‘Creonte’ in Venice, and then went on to write over fifty sacred concertos. After moving from Italy he returned to Russia where he was appointed Kapellmeister to the imperial court chapel choir, later being promoted to director. His sacred works are outstanding among eighteenth-century Russian choral music for their lyricism and skilful use of contrapuntal techniques. It was in 1779 that Bortnyansky was appointed Kapellmeister of the Court Cappella, an institution with which he would be associated for the rest of his life. Most of his liturgical works for chorus were written in the early 1790s, and coincided with the last years of Catherine the Great’s reign. As a true reflection of their time, they are imbued with the spirit of the late Baroque and the ideals of enlightenment. Their function can be regarded as twofold. Firstly, the arts and sciences were seen as spiritually enobling and edifying, and secondly music at the court of Catherine the Great performed an important state function and had to reflect the prestige and the grandeur of the throne: In her time the sacred concerto was generally sung at the end of the liturgy, because of their close association with court ritual. Bortnyansky’s choral works, whilst remaining sacred in content, are often secular in style. Of Bortnyansky’s sacred works the Sacred Concertos, which are nearly all settings of verses from the Book of Psalms, are considered to be the most important and mark the high point of the genre in Russia during the eighteenth century. The concertos belonging to the group Nos 10-16 are still classified as early concertos, but a perceptible change can already be felt in the first three of them. The music is of a calmer and more reflective quality. What is lost in brilliance is gained in the feeling of mystery and spiritual profundity. The occurrence of pairs of concertos (in this case three) bound by the inner quality of the music is a typical feature of some of the later concertos. The remaining discs are generally brighter in tone, but the structure is often more complex and this gives them greater individuality.

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