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Russian Music of the 16th Century
June 16, 2014 14:43

In the 15th – 16th centuries the idea of angel-voice singing associated with monothematic unison singing was reconsidered. It happened along with the shift in Russian iconography to the concept of Trinity actively developed since the 15th century. Just like Andrey Rublyov's Trinity became the highest expression of the theological doctrine, so the idea of trinity was expressed in the Russian church music with the special form of polyphony named the 3-line hymnody. For this type of singing the voices were written serially in lines one over another making a multi-colored score. The main voice was the “way”, i.e. the middle voice leading the Znamenny (plain) chant melody. It was framed with the higher “top” and lower “bottom” voices. For long time Russia kept the custom of entrusting the most important chants to three young men. The prototype of 3-lyne hymnody was probably the biblical story from the Book of Daniel about three adolescents, who did not bow to the gold idol; they were punished by the Babylonian tsar Nebuchadnezzar, who plunged them into a fiery furnace, where the three sang thanksgiving to God and were rescued by angels that came down from the sky.

Creation of the three-line hymnody is attributed to the chanters Savva and Vasily Rogovs (from Novgorod), who were considered the most authoritative musicians in Moscow of the second half of the 16th century.
The traditional Znamenny chant (aka echoes chant or Russian chant) was changed as well. Remaining within the limits of monothematic choral singing, Russian chanters managed to create a few new chants. For example, there appeared a traveling banner by which canticles were performed to accompany various church processions. At the end of the 16th century they created the Big Chant characterized with inexhaustible melodic richness. A new phenomenon was the Demestvenny Chant standing out in magnificence and grandiose splendor of sounding. Its name was associated with the precentor – domestic – who memorized all the melodies that were unconditioned by traditional music laws.
The development of the Russian singing culture brought about the choir of monarchic clerk vicars to appear in Moscow. It was headed by the precentor, who was assisted by the senior choir singer with a very good voice (usually baritone), profound knowledge of the Typikon. The latter was responsible for training young singers and taking care of rules. This choir existed under different names for more than 300 years.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Culture Russian History Russian Music   

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