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COMPOSERS: Bortnyansky
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sacred Concerto No. 1; Sacred Concerto No. 2; Sacred Concerto No. 3; Sacred Concerto No. 4; Sacred Concerto No. 5; Sacred Concerto No. 6; Sacred Concerto No. 7; Sacred Concerto No. 8; Sacred Concerto No. 9
PERFORMER: Russian State Symphonic Cappella/Valeri Polyansky
More prominent in the history books than in live performance, the Ukrainian-born Dmitri Stepanovich Bortnyansky (1751-1825) deserves wider recognition as one of the fathers of Russian music. Like almost all his contemporaries he was influenced by trends in Italian music, and it was in Italy that he enjoyed his first operatic success. But his operas were soon overshadowed by his church music – of which he wrote much as Kapellmeister to the Imperial Court, the post that lured him back to St Petersburg. His Sacred Concertos became a staple of the Russian Orthodox repertoire, and influenced such figures as Tchaikovsky, who edited a complete edition of them.


This first volume of Chandos’s complete survey is thus very welcome, though listeners may not want listen to it and all its successors in one sitting – as they were never intended to be heard together, each of the three-movement works do follow a formula. But Bortnyansky’s textures are varied, his lines are graceful, and there are moments of high exultation and lyric beauty. The rich sound-world of Catherine the Great’s court is evoked in these sonorous performances by the Russian State Symphonic Cappella, with its bottomless basses and mettlesome sopranos, and Valeri Polyansky’s conducting brings out all the detail. John Allison