Dmytro Bortniansky


He received his musical education in Gluchow, St. Petersburg and Venice.

DMYTRO BORTNIANSKY (1751, Hlukhiv – 1825, St. Petersburg), received the basics of his musical education in Hlukhiv, at the Orthodox singers’ school, which had existed since 1738, from which talented boys were recruited for the tsarist choral band in St. Petersburg. Taken to it in 1759 at the age of 8, here he studied singing and music theory, in addition to composition with B. Galuppi. After Galuppi’s departure from St. Petersburg, he continued his studies with him in Venice. In 1769-79 he also stayed in Bologna and Rome.

While in Italy, he wrote a number of religious compositions to Latin texts and staged three operas (Creonte, Quinto Fabio, Alcide), which were highly praised by his contemporaries. Upon his return to St. Petersburg in 1779, he became conductor of the Tsar’s choral band, and in 1796 became director of vocal music and director of the band. While acting in this position, he wrote many religious compositions and contributed to a significant improvement in the level of the ensemble. At the time, he also wrote operas to French librettos – La fete du seigneur (“The Senior’s Feast,” 1786), Le faucon (“The Falcon,” 1786), Le fils rival, ou La moderne Stratonice (“The Rival Son or Modern Stratonica,” 1787), as well as instrumental works. Bortniansky’s operatic style is based on the achievements of Italian opera of the 18th century. Native traditions are manifested in the extensive use of choruses. Later operas show the influence of French comic opera. The most outstanding compositional achievements, however, are the religious concertos for a cappella choir – 35 for 4-voice choir and 10 for two choirs. These are extensive compositions consisting of 3 or 4 contrasting movements. In the melodics of the concertos, the composer uses phrases of Old Church notable chants, combining them with phrases typical of Ukrainian songs and Italian operatic cantilena. Bortniansky is also considered, due to his residence and work in St. Petersburg, to be the most outstanding Russian composer of the 18th century.

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