“Classicism” à la Russe

Richard Taruskin

in On Russian Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249790
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942806 | DOI:
“Classicism” à la Russe

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This chapter explains how music in Russia evolved during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with an example, The Powers of Heaven: Orthodox Music of the 17th and 18th Centuries, performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and conducted by Paul Hillier. Before the seventeenth century, thanks to long centuries of seclusion behind an iron curtain of Mongolian captivity, the music of the Russian church developed in isolation from that of Western Europe. It was not even called music, but rather “singing” (peniye), and it continued to rely on the sort of staffless neumatic notation that had begun to pass out of Western European use as early as the eleventh century. In Russian usage, musika meant secular instrumental music, a pleonasm for the Eastern Orthodox, who have never allowed the use of instruments in church. By the seventeenth century, it meant staff-notated Western-style music, and it began infiltrating the precincts of peniye as soon as “Western” became associated with high social prestige.

Keywords: Powers of heaven; orthodox music; peniye; Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Paul Hillier; Mongolian captivity

Chapter.  2010 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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