The Russian Capital Hosts a Seminar, “The Russian Diaspora: Unknown Pages”
On February 7, 2015, Solzhenitsyn House for the Russian Diaspora hosted a seminar titled “The Russian Diaspora: Unknown Pages,” which included two presentations on the music of the Russian Orthodox emigration: the tenth edition of an CD series titled “Singing of the Russian Diaspora” (San Francisco: Russky Pastyr , 2015) and a compendium entitled Russian Diaspora: Music and Orthodoxy (Moscow, Vikmo-M, 2013).
Opening the event was Maria Anatolievna Vasilieva, Secretary of the House for the Russian Diaspora, who introduced the author of “Singing of the Russian Diaspora,” Svetlana Zvereva.
The music CD is the final in the series, which covers the forgotten choral legacy of the Russian emigration. It includes recordings of church music written by 23 composers of the Russian diaspora, including Boris Ledkovsky, Maksim Kovalevsky, Kedrov Sr and Kedrov Jr, Archbishop Gabriel (Chepur), musicologist Ivan Gardner, Protopriest Victor Ilienko, and Paris’ Evgeny Yevets and Alexander Zhavoronkov.
The CD was recorded by Ozareniye Choir of Moscow under the direction of Olga Burova. The performances reflect the fine penetration of the spirit and content of the music and the sense of church style along with lofty choral culture.
The second project, Russian Diaspora: Music and Orthodoxy, is based on materials of the eponymous conference held on September 17-19, 2008. The event was the first academic forum which discussed the music and musicians of the Orthodox Christian diaspora. A joint project of the House for the Russian Diaspora (Maria Vasilieva) and the State Scientific Research Institute of Art (Svetlana Zvereva), the compendium organically matches the series “Solzhenitsyn House for the Russian Diaspora: Materials and Research.” The publication united in one volume research on spiritual music of the Russian emigration and unique resources: correspondence, memoirs, interviews, rare photographs and documents. Discussion of these materials were held during meetings of the Music Department and the Bolshoy Academic Committee of the SSRIA.
The two projects originated independently, yet they complement each other.
Protopriest Peter Perekrestov, the originator of the project “Singing of the Russian Diaspora,” include works composed abroad and recorded by choirs from the former USSR. Disseminating Russian music from the diaspora throughout the post-Soviet territories, the creators of the series are returning to their homeland these enriched national treasures.
Fr Peter began his speech with a theological outline of the nature of music. God gave the angels music, and they sang His praises. According to tradition, the angel Lucifer, before his fall, led the angelic choirs. Man was likewise bestowed with the gift of music and praised the Creator in the Garden of Eden. After the Fall, man was not deprived of this gift, but it was distorted. According to St Isaac of Syria, there are three forms of art in the world today: divine, human and devilish. Fr Peter further noted that in days past, the worst punishment was not death, but exile. The composers of the Russian diaspora labored under difficult emigre circumstances, at times in poverty, and they often thought their works would remain in their desk drawers, never to be performed by a choir. This audio series is a resounding memorial to these ascetic musicians. In conclusion, Fr Peter emphasized that it is improper to call this music “of the diaspora,” the creators were authentic Russian church composers, formed and nourished in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
Svetlana Zvereva then noted that Gardner and Ledkovsky were influenced by the New Movement in Russian ecclesiastical music. The two lived in Moscow on the eve of the Revolution, both were infused with the ideas promoted by the New Movement of the Moscow School, which originated in the Moscow Synodal school of Church Singing, which included composers such as SV Smolensky, AD Kastalsky, VS Orlov, Protopriest VM Metallov and others. The school’s credo was a return of the church music of the fatherland to its national melodic and esthetic root, the use of sources from ancient church chant as a basis for polyphonic arrangements.
Fr Peter established the list of music recorded for the CD, using not only existing works such as Notnij sbornik pravoslavnogo russkogo tserkovnogo peniya [Compendium of Notes of Russian Orthodox Church Singing], two volumes of which published in London in 1962 and 1975; the publications of “Orthodox Publications of Protopriest N Beglais in Berkeley,” which in the post-War period became the most popular book of Russian music outside of the USSR, but he also sought out notes in other countries as well. In some cases there were unpublished manuscripts used.
While the audio recordings immerse the listener in the musical world of the diaspora, the text of Russian Diaspora: Music and Orthodoxy provide a substantial facet of the historic musical process, recreate the space in which the music sounded and reveal the fates of the creators: choir directors, singers, music scholars and publishers. Almost all the articles include very rare photographs, published for the first time ever.
Obviously, a great deal of the book is devoted to the biographies of these pillars of liturgical singing such as Gardner and Ledkovsky. Materials were obtained from Marina Ledkovsky, the late widow of Boris Mikhailovich, SM Stoika, a student of Gardner living in Ukraine, as well as Hilkki Seppala of Finland and Natalia Zelensky of the USA. The legendary Parisian choir director, Peter Spassky, is remembered by his son, NP Spassky. The thoughts of Protopriest Michel Fortunatto of Vichy, France, on the depth of meaning of Russian liturgical music are revealed.
In addition to purely church themes, the compendium raises questions of the religious outlook of major composers such as Stravinsky (from materials obtained from the British musicologist Stuart Campbell). Elena Sigeikina of Moscow contributed materials on the biography of Paris’ Alexander Grechaninov from correspondence with his student, Serge Aksakov. The Russian Orthodox traditions of the Tcherepnine family are presented in the context of the Parisian emigration in an article by Ludmila Korabelnikova of Moscow. Nadezhda Mosusova of Belgrade wrote about how Russian emigre troupes staged national and Orthodox-spirited operas “Boris Godounov,” “Khovanshchina” and “Tale of Kitezh.”
The role played by the Kovalevsky brothers in presenting the musical traditions of the Orthodox Church in France is the topic of an item by Marina Rakhmanova (Moscow). The essence of the treatment of fold music by the legendary Don Cossack Choir is investigated by Natalia Danchenkova of Moscow. Alexei Arseniev of Novy Sad, Serbia, undertook an exhaustive exploration of hundreds of forgotten Russian musicians who worked in the Serbian Kingdom, in the lands of the Croats and Slovenians. A detailed historical study of original sources on the male choirs of France and Italy (1936-1948) was done by Denis Brierly.
The book presents the work of twenty-three authors and memoirists from seven countries. Among them are also Rostislav Polchaninov, Arcady Nebolsine and the recently-reposed Marina Ledkovsky, all leading figures in the Russian diaspora.
Both projects reflect an exceedingly important historical event, the signing on May 17, 2007, of the Act of Canonical Communion between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. These projects are manifested as a result of the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Church, and have become possible as a result.
Zvereva’s presentation included many rare archival photos and video recordings.
The art and choir director of the chamber chorus “Ozaerenie,” Olga Nikolaevna Burova, talked about how the music of Russian composers abroad were a revelation to her, how fresh and spiritual were the arrangements. Of note were the particular plasticity of the melodic lines. In addition, the works of the composers whose works are recorded on the CDs clearly fall in line with the Moscow School, which reaches back into the depth of its national roots.
The Dean of the History Department of St Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University, Protopriest Andrei Posternak, expressed the believe that the highest form of musical art is liturgical singing, and most of all the music of Divine Liturgy. Church music must draw mankind towards God, but in any case not hinder Christians from praying. Such music should not simply reflect human passions. In Moscow musical circles, the debate often arises about what church singing should be like. Some yearn for the return of Znamenny chant, others insist on polyphonic singing. Fr Andrei feels that the work of church composers of the Russian diaspora represents the ideal of liturgical singing: they did not fall to extremes and they fulfilled the main goal of divine services.
Professor Aleksei Maksimovich Rudnevsky of Moscow State Conservatory noted that it is not enough for the works of the composers of the Russian diaspora remain simply sonic memorials. The return of liturgical and cultural legacy to the homeland will only be complete when their compositions enter the repertoire of church choirs in Russia.
Professor Nikolai Nikolaevich Sadikov of STOHU discussed the bonds between the musical creativity of the Russian diaspora and the work of composers in the Homeland.
Instructor Ekaterina Nikolaevna Sadikova of STOHU’s Church Singing Department expressed the thought that church art in Russia and abroad comprise a single entity. Long before the reestablishment of unity between the two parts of the Russian Church, there was contact between various representatives of both sides. For instance, it is well known now, but not at the time, that Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra would perform the music of Boris Ledkovsky, who was the director of the Synodal Cathedral Choir of ROCOR in New York. “We were puzzled how Ledkovsky’s fourth tone made its way to the Lavra. Of course, no one told us who the composer was. We thought this was a ‘harmonization of Archimandrite Matfei,’ the renowned choir director at the Lavra,” recalled Ms Sadikova.
Senior Scholar of the State Institute of Art History, Natalia Yurievna Danchenkova pointed out that in the collection Russian Diaspora: Music and Orthodoxy we see the image of the Russian emigration in the persons and fates of its people. The book pays special attention to the human factor in the history of Russian music.
Concluding the evening was a performance by Ozareniye of the works of the composers of the Russian diaspora. The choir exhibited lofty execution, plasticity in its phraseology and a jewel-like adornment of detail.