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Russian Music in the 18th Century
August 27, 2014 15:53

In the 18th century notable changes took place in Russian music as well, though they were not as profound as in other art forms. A new folk music instrument – the balalaika was created in 1715. The guitar started gaining popularity and spreading from the middle of the 18th century. The church choral music went on developing successfully. At the same time new genres sprang up. In particular, there came to be military music performed by wind bands. Chamber instrumental, opera and symphonic music came to be. Lots of aristocrats got their home orchestras. Creativity by D. S. Bortnyansky, who composed magnificent choral music, as well as operas Falcon, and Rival Son deserve special attention.

The first professional Russian theatre was founded by the great actor F.G. Volkov in the 18th century.

Profound changes affected not only the above-mentioned areas of Russian culture, but also the overall setup of everyday life. One of the principal changes there was related to introduction of the new calendar. A decree by Peter the Great directed to count years starting from A.D. i.e. since January 1, 1700 as it was considered in the European countries. However, Europe used the Gregorian calendar, whereas Julian calendar was introduced in Russia. A new tradition was set along with the Peter’s decree: it was the New Year holiday celebrated with merrymaking, games and shooting, as well as decorating house gates with pine, fir-tree and juniper branches.
Another decree by Peter the Great inculcated a new form of social communication, which was assembly. Representatives of the upper class gathered together for rest and entertainment, such as dancing, small talks, playing chess and checkers. The tradition of bilingualism also became part and parcel of everyday life of the court nobility. The German language was widely used under the reign of Peter I and Anna Ioannovna, whereas French gained great popularity starting from the Elizabeth’s rule. The influence of the French culture was also manifested in noble ladies’ love for the harpsichord they started playing.
Considerable changes took place in the field of clothing. Traditional Russian costumes, long and broad, gave way to German caftans, short and narrow European apparel. Upper class men stopped wearing beards. European dress code, etiquette manners and behavior patterns were established among the court nobility. 
Cultural reforms and innovations of the 18th    century mostly embraced the privileged of the Russian society. They almost did not affect the lower social strata. Those Western values and customs mostly imposed onto Russian people led to breaking the former organic unity of the Russian culture. Moreover, these processes could not do without extremes and side-effects. Some members of the crème of society absolutely forgot the Russian culture, language, traditions and customs. Nevertheless, reforms and innovations were necessary and inevitable. Cultural conversions promoted the general development of Russia. Modern secular culture was necessary for Russia to take up a reputable worthy place among the advanced nations.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Music Russian History    

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