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Biography of

Dmitry Bortnyansky

28 oct 1751 (Glukhov) - 10 oct 1825 (St Petersburg)
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Dmitry Stepanovich Bortniansky (Ukrainian: Дмитро Степанович Бортнянський, Dmytro Stepanovych Bortnians’kyi; Russian: Дмитрий Степанович Бортнянский, Dmitrij Stepanovič Bortnjanskij; also referred to as Dmitry or Dmitri Bortnyansky; 28 October 1751 [1] [2] - 10 October [O.S. 28 September] 1825) was a Ukrainian-born composer, active principally in Russia.[1] He was one of the "Golden Three" of his era, along with Artem Vedel and Maksym Berezovsky. Bortniansky composed in many different musical styles, including choral compositions in French, Italian, Latin, German, Old Church Slavonic and Russian.



Dmitry Bortniansky was born on October 28, 1751 in the city of Hlukhiv (present-day Ukraine), then under the Russian Empire (as Glukhov). At the age of seven, his prodigious talent at the local church choir afforded him the opportunity to go the capital of the empire and sing with the Imperial Chapel Choir in St. Petersburg. There he studied music and composition under the director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, the Italian master Baldassare Galuppi. When Galuppi left for Italy in 1769, he took the boy with him. In Italy, Bortniansky gained considerable success composing operas: Creonte (1776) and Alcide (1778) in Venice, and Quinto Fabio (1779) at Modena. He also composed sacred works in Latin and German, both a cappella and with orchestral accompaniment (including an Ave Maria for two voices and orchestra).


Bortniansky returned to the court at St. Petersburg in 1779 and flourished creatively. He composed at least four more operas (all in French, with libretti by Franz-Hermann Lafermière): Le Faucon (1786), Le fete du seigneur (1786), Don Carlos (1786), and Le fils-rival ou La moderne Stratonice (1787). Bortniansky wrote a number of instrumental works at this time, including piano sonatas and a piano quintet with harp, and a cycle of French songs. He also composed liturgical music for the Orthodox Church, combining the Eastern and Western European styles of sacred music, incorporating the polyphony he learned in Italy; some works were polychoral, using a style descended from the Venetian polychoral technique of the Gabrielis.

After a while, Bortniansky's genius proved too great to ignore, and in 1796 he was appointed Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, the first director not to have been imported from outside of the Russian Empire. With such a great instrument at his disposal, he produced scores upon scores of compositions, including over 100 religious works, sacred concertos (35 for four-part mixed choir, 10 for double choruses), cantatas, and hymns.

Dmitry Bortniansky died in St. Petersburg on October 10, 1825, and was interred at the Smolensky Cemetery in St. Petersburg. His remains were transferred to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in the 20th century.

Musical legacy

In 1882, Pyotr Tchaikovsky edited the liturgical works of Bortniansky, which were published in ten volumes. While Dmitry Bortniansky wrote operas and instrumental compositions, it is his sacred choral works that are performed most often today. This vast body of work remains central not only to understanding 18th-century Orthodox sacred music, but also served as inspiration to his fellow Ukrainian composers in the 19th century.

The tune he wrote for the Latin hymn Tantum Ergo eventually became known in Slavic lands as Коль славен (Kol slaven), in which form it is still sung as a Christmas carol today. The tune was also popular with freemasons. It travelled to English speaking countries and came to be known by the names Russia, St. Petersburg or Wells; in Germany, the song was paired with a text by Gerhard Tersteegen, and became a well-known chorale and traditional closing piece to the military ritual Großer Zapfenstreich (the Ceremonial Tattoo). Prior to the October revolution in 1917, the tune was played by the Moscow Kremlin carillon every day at midday.

James Blish, who novelized many episodes of the original series of Star Trek, noted in one story, Whom Gods Destroy, that Bortniansky's Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe was the theme "to which all Starfleet Academy classes marched to their graduation."



Choruses (in Old Church Slavonic)

  • Da ispravitsia molitva moia ("Let My Prayer Arise") no. 2.
  • Kheruvimskie pesni (Cherubic Hymns) nos. 1-7
  • Concerto No. 1: Vospoite Hospodevi ("Sing unto the Lord")
  • Concerto No. 7: Priidite vozraduemsia ("Come Let Us Rejoice")
  • Concerto No. 11: Blahoslovy Hospod ("Blessed is the Lord")
  • Concerto No. 18: Blaho iest ispovedatsia ("It Is Good To Praise the Lord", Psalm 92)
  • Concerto No. 19: Reche Hospod Hospodevi moemu ("The Lord Said unto My Lord")
  • Concerto No. 21: Zhivyi v pomoshi Vyshnaho ("He That Dwelleth", Psalm 91)
  • Concerto No. 24: Vozvedokh ochi moyi v hory ("I Lift Up My Eyes to the Mountains")
  • Concerto No. 27: Hlasom moim ko Hospodu vozzvakh ("With My Voice I Cried Out to the Lord")
  • Concerto No. 32: Skazhi mi, Hospodi, konchynu moiu ("Lord, Make Me Know My End")
  • Concerto No. 33: Vskuiu priskorbna iesy dusha moia ("Why Are You Downcast, O My Soul?", Psalm 42:5)


  • Concerto-Symphony for Piano, Harp, Two Violins, Viola da gamba, Cello and Bassoon in B Flat Major (1790).


  • Quintet for Piano, Harp, Violin, Viola da gamba and Cello (1787).


  1. ^ Marika Kuzma. "Bortnyans′ky, Dmytro Stepanovych." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 11 Jun. 2009 <>.

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dmitry Bortnyansky. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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