Orthodoxy, Music, Politics and Art in Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe


+44 20 79197646 (messages only)


For Registration, please use the following link:



Lunchtime Concert - GBP 5, Goldsmiths students free
Evening Concert  - GBP 10/5 consessions, Goldsmiths students free 


Orthodoxy, Music , Politics and Art in Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe
Conference/Festival organized by the Centre for Russian Music and the Department of History, Goldsmiths, University of London,
and the Department  of Orthodox Theology, University of Eastern Finland

Great Hall, Goldsmiths, University of London
22 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW

Saturday, 16 March, and Sunday 17 March 2013


Saturday 16 March 2013

Session 1
Orthodoxy and  Politics

Chair: Arnold McMillin

10:00 am Welcome

10:15am Keynote Lecture:
Ivan Moody: “Orthodox Church Music and the Politics of the Unpolitical”

Predrag Djoković: ”Sacred Music in the Musical Life of Serbia in the Time of Communism”

Martin Nygaard Hansen-Chernetskiy: “Znamenny rospev in shifting political contexts”

12pm – Lunch (own arrangements)



Lunchtime concert

Goldsmiths Chamber Choir conducted by Alexander Ivashkin
Rakhmaninov - The Mother of God, ever-vigilant in prayer
Chesnokov - Lord, save the faithful
Rakhmaninov - Dnes' Spasenie /Today Salvation has come (Vespers, No 13)
Stravinsky - Otche nash /Our Father
Mussorgsky - Angel Vopiyashe /The Angel cried
Schnittke - Gospodi Iisuse
Traditional: Khristos Voskrese

Session 2
Orthodoxy and Post-Communist  Culture
Chair: Jan Plamper

Tara Wilson: “Vladimir Martynov: Russian Orthodoxy as a Cultural and Compositional Aesthetic”

Jūlija Jonāne: “The Appearance of Russian Orthodox Genres and Composers in the Revival of Latvian Sacred Music”

Irina Chudinova: “Musical ‘Byzantinism’ in Modern Russian Church Culture”

Arnold McMillin: “Faith, Hope and Little Charity: Religion as Reflected in Modern Belarusian Literature

Interval 15 min

Session 3
Aesthetics, History and Theory of Orthodox Music
Chair: Alexander Ivashkin

Tatiana Soloviova: “Stepan Smolensky and the Renaissance of Sacred Music in Russia: developments and discussions”

Achilleas Chaldaeakes: “Ecclesiastical policy’s reflexions in Sacred Music”

Marek Dolewka: “On the Traces of Hesychasm in the Music of Arvo Pärt”

6:30 pm
Dinner (own arrangements)


7 :30pm

Concert: English Chamber Choir conducted by Guy Protheroe
The Very Reverend Ivan Moody, soloist

Tchaikovsky - The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (concert version)
Chesnokov - Blagoslovi dushc moya Gospoda /Bless the Lord,O my soul
Chesnokov -  Da ispravitsya /Let the lifting up of my hands
Chesnokov - Duh tvoy blagiy /Let Thy good Spirit
Moody - Angel vopiyashe /The Angel cried
Hristov - Nyne otpuschaeshi /Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant
Konjovic - Glas Gospoden /The Voice of the Lord
Moody - When Augustus reigned



Sunday 17 March

Session 4
Orthodoxy and the  Twentieth-century Culture
Chair: Ivan Moody

Elena Artamonova: “Sergei Vasilenko and the Old Believers”

Gregory Myers: “Nikolai Korndorf’s Music for the Holy Space: More Thoughts on his 1978 Setting of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy”

Tanya Sirotina: “Vladimir Rubin, confession and repentance in music, or the poetic theatre of life”

Rachel Jeremiah-Foulds: “Treading an Established Path: Galina Ustvolskaya's Unexpected Avenue to the Znamenny Tradition Through the Works of Igor Stravinsky”

12:00pm – Lunch (own arrangements)


Session 5
Orthodoxy  and  the Twentieth-century Culture (continued)
Chair Rachel Jeremiah-Foulds

Katya Ermolaev: “The Terrible Trichord: Russian Chant in Prokofiev's Film Score Ivan the Terrible (1945-46)"

Paolo Eustachi: “The Influence of Orthodoxy on Russian Cinema and Soundtrack”

Alexander Ivashkin: “Shostakovich: a Believer?”

Interval 15 min

Boris Belge: “Spirituality as Personal Denomination: Religious Expression in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Work”

Ivana Medić: "Echoes of a Distant Past: Serbian Piano Music inspired by the Orthodox Tradition”

Round Table.
Chaired by Alexander Ivashkin and Ivan Moody







Centre for Russian Music, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK


Sergei Vasilenko and the Old Believers


Vasilenko has been perceived as a conformist and inconsequential Soviet composer in post-Soviet Russia. The recent discoveries of unpublished documents reveal Vasilenko to be a talented musician whose search for a niche within the culture of Soviet music forced him to keep his true musical writings secret from the public in the drawer of his desk.


Chant as an element of musical vocabulary and as a symbolic depiction of faith played an important role in his artistic expression. Vasilenko undertook a diligent practical and scholarly research on the Old Believers’ chant, znamennyi raspev, studied the kriuki notation and attended the Old Believers’ liturgies in Moscow, which were forbidden for outsiders and kept in strict confidence in spite of severe persecution. Vasilenko’s first major composition, a cantata the Legend of the Great City of Kitezh and the Quiet Lake Svetoyar op. 5 written in 1902, was composed using the authentic tunes of the Old Believers and schismatic legends from the Volga region. This work anticipated Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov’s opera on the same subject.


Vasilenko strongly linked the ascetic simplicity and plainness of the monodic tunes of the Old Believers with the ancient icons and the paintings of a devout Russian Orthodox artist, Mikhail Nesterov. The visual and narrative aspects of his work depicted an irrational mystic world that was in harmony with Vasilenko’s musical aspirations.


The analysis and discussion of these subjects rely heavily on unpublished and little-explored materials on Vasilenko from the archives in Moscow.




University of Tuebingen, Germany


Spirituality as a Personal Denomination. Religious Expression in Sofia Gubaidulina’s Work


Sofia Gubaidulina (*1932) is widely considered one of the most “religious” composers of the former Soviet Union. In fact, she believed in God since her youth. Due to this religiosity, she could not but include religious material and ideas in to her musical work. Socialized in the days of Khrushchev’s antireligious campaigns and a widespread disinterest in religion in Soviet society, her religious conviction seems to be something exceptional.


In my paper, I will investigate Gubaidulina’s musical spirituality by analysing some of her works written in Soviet times (Offertorium, Seven Words). I will then discuss questions of continuity or discontinuity in Gubaidulina’s spirituality in the Brezhnev era, as well as Perestroika, and postcommunist times. I will argue that only a deep understanding of Gubaidulina’s surrounding historical context, especially Soviet society in the Brezhnev era, helps to comprehend the impact of her compositions on concertgoers. By analysing the shifting notions of religious expressions in Soviet society, I will provide some insight into the reception of Sofia Gubaidulina and her work. My paper will be largely based on interviews with composers and musicologists conducted by me, interviews published in newsletters and magazines, and written sources such as archival documents and memoirs.

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

The Reflections of Ecclesiastical Policy in Sacred Music: the case of Patriarch Athanasios V


Patriarch of Constantinople Athanasios the 5th is an exceptionally important Church figure, widely renowned in the relevant historical research. He was from a Cretan; through historians he is described as “a wise man, whose outstanding prosperity was a scandal to the clergymen of the time; he would read European books and induced the people towards education”, whereas he is reported as “an expert of Greek, Latin and Arabic dialects, being in parallel perfect as far as music is concerned”.


Indeed he is nowadays known to us as a complete and perfect musician mainly based upon his only recently found handwritten musical codex Sinai 1282 (a book containing John Kladas’s Akathistos Hymn melodies), a manuscript that is signed in f. 119r with the following note: “the present Oikoi were written by me, Athanasios Margounios from Crete, Bishop of Tornovo, at the year 1687 of June 1st, while I was at the prison because of Patriarch Dionysios’s spitefulness”. It becomes evident in this indirect way the hardships that Athanasios suffered “due to Patriarch Dionysios’ spitefulness” [we refer to Patriarch Dionysios IV, the so-called Mouselimis (+1696), who was elected Patriarch five times; he was chasing Athanasios, for reasons unknown still today, during his forth Patriarchy (March of 1686-12th of October 1687)]; in addition, it is already noticed that “Athanasios’s oeuvre (like for instance, his well-known Kalophonic Heirmoi, especially if we take into consideration their text) owes its formation to the hardships he had suffered during his restriction to Mount Sinai”.


This implied effect, mirroring and reflexion of any ecclesiastical policy upon the general artistic creation of the Sacred Music I will try to analyse in the present paper, taking as a basis the case of Athanasios.




Russian Institute of the History of the Arts, St Petersburg, Russian Federation


Musical “Byzantinism” in Modern Russian Church Culture


Throughout its history, Russian church music repeatedly went through rethinking of language norms and changes in singing style connected with social and cultural transformations in Russian society. The identity of practice and theory of the art of Russian church singing at all stages of its development was mainly determined by the attitude to its Byzantine roots.  The most cardinal shift in this part of Russian culture happened in the 17th century (beginning from the Time of Troubles and lasting till the reforms of Peter the First) and was connected with the development of Russian imperial ideology. It was characterized by a paradoxical combination of “Byzantinism” in its most active form (with the so called “Greek chant” becoming extremely widespread and Russian liturgical texts and rites being “purged” according to archaic Greek models) and massive penetration of European secular music forms (the polyphonic choral partes and concert style of singing). The new return to Byzantine music tradition in the art of church singing can be seen in post-Soviet Russia. From the early 1990s, along with the widespread practice of obikhodny polyphony, adopted in the majority of Russian Orthodox churches, the revival of the ancient Russian znamenny singing begins; later, the style of singing borrowed from modern Greek church singing practice gains ground. The tendency to renew the singing style and musical language can be noticed in some monasteries and churches of St Petersburg and Moscow. The paper will focus upon the characteristic features of musical “Byzantinism” in modern Russian culture and the social context of this trend.




Music Academy, University of East Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina


Sacred Music In The Musical Life Of Serbia In The Time Of Communism


In order to understand the status of sacred music in communist Serbia, it is necessary to explain the attitude of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia towards religion between 1945 and 1990. This country treated religion as “the opium for the people” and had a negative approach to the different Christian denominations, especially to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Since the religious communities were, as well as all their activities in that period, on the margins of social, and particularly public life, sacred music was very little, if at all, present in the concert halls. Although this attitude was common throughout the communist Yugoslavia, in predominantly Roman Catholic Croatia and Slovenia situation was different to some extent. In the Orthodox Serbia, the communists completely abandoned traditional cultural values. In the course of almost 50 years, spiritual, a cappella choir music, which was a significant part of the cultural identity of the Orthodox Serbs, could not be heard publicly at all. Many pre-WW2 church choirs transformed under the influence of the militant atheism, while new, city choirs performed partisan songs glorifying the communist sacrifices and their struggle in creating the new society. However, contrary to the lack of the Orthodox Church music, in the same period in Serbia, the Catholic and Protestant church music was performed from time to time. This deliberate neglect of the Orthodox music in the musical life of Serbia lasted until 1980s. As a consequence of the weakening of the communist regime and its ideology, the status of the sacred music improved in public. One of the turning points was the celebration of the 125 years of Mokranjac’s birth. In 1981, the Radio Television Belgrade Choir performed and recorded the greatest Serbian composer Stevan Mokranjac’s most important spiritual works – The Liturgy and The Funeral Service (Requiem).




University of Vienna, Austria


On The Traces Of Hesychasm In The Music Of Arvo Pärt


The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a member of the Orthodox Church, is considered a preeminent homo religiosus of contemporary music. The religious aura of his compositions clearly illuminates the postmodern era, a time when the word God became the last taboo (Françoise Meltzer and David Tracy). This paper examines the ways in which the contemplative tradition of Eastern Christian

spirituality influences Pärt's work.


First, I will analyze the direct impact of the hesychast tradition, visible in the texts of some of Pärt's vocal works. I will focus on Adam's Lament (2009/10), L'abbé Agathon (2004) and, in particular, on Silouan’s Song ‘My soul yearns after the Lord ...’ (1991) – an interesting example of an instrumental piece, in which phrases are based on a text by Saint Silouan the Athonite. I will then explore the

role of the basic elements of hesychastic prayer in Pärt's own compositional technique called tintinnabulation, such as: silence, simplicity, timelessness and tranquility. In the end, I will try to estimate the significance of hesychasm and spirituality in the artistic expression of Arvo Pärt.


Religion influences everything. Not just music but everything – said the composer in an interview with Jamie McCarthy. Analysis of Pärt's statements and the most important elements of his biography will also play an important role in my paper.





Princeton University, USA; Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, UK


The Terrible Trichord: Russian Chant in Prokofiev’s Film Score Ivan the Terrible (1945-46)


 “Some works are better forgotten. This is one,” wrote the eminent musicologist Richard Taruskin about Prokofiev’s film score to Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible before the New York Philharmonic’s 1995 concert performance.1 Taruskin argued that we have a moral obligation to disregard propagandistic works like Ivan, Prokofiev’s “most degraded work,” and asked, “Why resurrect it in glory?”

I rise to Taruskin’s challenge in my paper by showing, through a motivic analysis of the soundtrack, that the intricate melodic construction of the music in Ivan the Terrible makes it worthy of continued performance and study. Specifically, I aim to show that Prokofiev and Eisenstein’s soundtrack, which comprises three types of music (Prokofiev’s original compositions, Russian Orthodox liturgical borrowings and traditional bell music), is unified on a motivic level by a three-note pattern I call the Ivan trichord. This small musical motive can be heard throughout the film and serves as a unifying kernel, bringing together these otherwise disparate and seemingly unrelated genres of music.


Furthermore, I argue that the use of the trichord in Ivan bears a striking resemblance to the theory on trichords as outlined by the seventeenth-century scholar of medieval Slavic chant, Aleksandr Mezenets, in his 1668 treatise.2 The resemblance between the use of the Ivan trichord in the film and Slavic chant suggests that there is a deeper connection to Slavic musical culture in the soundtrack than scholars have previously acknowledged. While the politics of Ivan are undeniably complex, both the presence of the Ivan trichord and its historical links with Tsar Ivan IV and his era3 demonstrate that the film score has rich historical and musical merit, granting it a place in Prokofiev’s oeuvre far more deserving than “his most degraded work.”


1 Sergei Sergeevich Prokofiev, Ivan Groznyi: muzyka k fil’mu Sergeiia Eizenshteina, soch. 116, ed. Marina Pavlovna Rakhmanova and Irina Andreevna Medvedeva (Hamburg and Moscow: Musikverlag Hans Sikorski and The Glinka State Museum of Musical Culture, 1997); Richard Taruskin, “Great Artists Serving Stalin Like a Dog,” New York Times (New York, N.Y., United States, May 28, 1995).

2 Aleksandr Mezenets, Azbuka znamennago peniia: izveshchenie o soglasneishykh pometakh, reproduced from the original 1668 edition and edited with commentary by Stepan Vasil’evich Smolenskii (Kazan, Russia: Tipografiia Imperatorskogo Universiteta, 1888).

3 Tsar Ivan IV Vasil’evich, ‘the Terrible’ (1530-1584) was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547 and Tsar of All the Russias from 1547 until his death.




Independent Researcher, Rome, Italy


The Influence of Orthodoxy on Russian Cinema and Soundtrack


When watching films by Andrey Tarkovskij (1932 – 1986) the spectator cannot help being impressed by the strong spiritual insight they come to convey. The influence of religion on the film output of the Russian director is of considerable importance and in a way also surprising for an artist coming from a country which at that time was dominated by Soviet materialist ideology.


When I first saw  his  autobiographical  feature The Mirror  (1974) – in France in 1978 – I was spellbound and astonished by its strong religious hints, in particular the final shot in which we see Tarkovskij’s  mother Maria  Visnjakova  Tarkovskaja walking with her children Andreij and Marina in a stunning  country  setting  dominated by  an electric post in the shape of a cross  and backed by  the the choral ‘Herr unser Herrscher’ from the St John Passion by Bach.


Tarkovskij’s artistic outlook is strictly associated with the Russian spiritual tradition which sees the acquisition of Holy Spirit as the main aim of Christian life.


The way to the Cross, sacrifice for the redemption of mankind ,the figure of  ‘holy fool’ (jurodivyj), quotations from and hints of the Book of Revelation are issues which regularly emerge in Tarkovskij’s output and in particular in his works  Stalker  (Mosfilm 1979), Nostalghia (Sovinfilm, Rai 2 1983) and The Sacrifice (1986).


The film about the great monk and icon painter Andrey Rublev (Mosfilm 1966) raises  profound  religious,  existential and moral questions. The visionary power of his films strongly recalls the contemplative visions  associated  with  icon painting.  Particularly striking, owing to its inner metaphysical power, is the final sequence of Sport, Sport, Sport (Mosfilm 1970), a documentary feature directed in masterly fashion by Elem Klimov (1933 – 2003).  This work focuses on harsh training practices in sports competition, often carried beyond legal boundaries.  We see at the end the great barefooted athlete Abebe Bikila who runs ahead towards an invisible finishing line, highlighting the inner longing of mankind to strive towards a higher target, beyond all earthbound, fading temptation.


Equally impressive is the movie The Ascent (Mosfilm 1976) made by Klimov’s wife, Larisa Shepitko (1938 – 1979), in which the death by hanging of Russian partisans captured by Nazi forces is represented in a highly dramatic fashion as a clear metaphor of the Passion of Christ. The ghostly character and contemplative power of the score composed by Alfred Schnittke (1934 – 1998) also represents a compelling match for the dramatic insights of the film.


The survey will finally deal the religious aspect of two contrasting post-Soviet films, Chekhov’s Motives (Nikola Film 2002) by Kira Muratova (1934) and The Island (Pavel Lunguin Studio 2006) by Pavel Lunguin (1949)  and  deal with their soundtracks, respectively by Valentin Silvestrov (1937) and Vladimir Martynov (1946).




Centre for Russian Music, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

Shostakovich: A Believer?

The paper discusses 'minimalist' elements of Shostakovich's style as embodiments/expressions of traditional Russian expressive modes rooted in the idioms of old folk music and the music of the ‘Old Believers’.

Shostakovich hated the Soviet regime, and his music after 1936 often had an ambivalent meaning because of this. His ‘socialist realism’ was in fact new, ritualistically coloured post-modernism. His music relates his ideas
to the principles of symbolism born in the early ages of European civilization, far away from Soviet society or even Russian soil.

Paradoxically, Shostakovich, who was urged to make his language more realistic, managed to make it more ritualistic. Like Columbus, he discovered the New World and new recourses rather intuitively, when he was being pushed in quite the opposite direction. His music, simplified in accordance with official demands, acquired some elements brought from old Russian religious rituals, with their enormous energy and explosive power. Indeed, the nature of Shostakovich’s works after 1937 is closer to folk and ritual than to patterns of so-called serious professional music. As in ritual, or in folk music, complexity comes out of simplicity. As in ritual, the structure is often meaningless and not essential. Energy often comes out of a single basic pattern which evolves, as it were, by itself.
By suppressing his freedom and his personality in the Soviet Union under Stalin in the late 1930s, Shostakovich paradoxically discovered the old roots of Russian spirituality and new resources for his own music.




Centre for Russian Music, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK


Treading an Established Path: Galina Ustvolskaya’s Unexpected Avenue to the Znamenny Tradition Through the Works of Igor Stravinsky


As one of the most important composers to arise in Soviet Russia, Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) opened new dimensions for Russian music by cultivating an original style in the midst of cultural and political calamity. Her indignant protests that she was ‘in isolation by choice and by geopolitical circumstance’ were reinforced by her vigorous rejection of many conventional genres and traditions and the development of her own, uncompromising voice. This paper will begin with a review of the conspicuous inclusion of characteristics of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Znamenny Raspev in her work, an approach that provided a route through which her extreme musical language could progress, and her spirituality could be explored, amidst the restrictions imposed in twentieth-century Russia.


Yet Ustvolskaya was not the first composer to be fascinated by the spiritual and cultural implications of this Orthodox chant, and to spot the possibilities its musical vocabulary presented. The thriving folk tradition of the chant, its reference to an ancient - more spiritual - Russia, along with its Modernist potential, had also made it a very attractive musical vocabulary to Stravinsky (1882-1971) half a century beforehand in an entirely different political context. This paper will also survey his use of the Znamenny Raspev in some of his major works (most notably Svadebka), compare the two composers’ application of the chant, outline the consequent tangible similarities between their compositional output, and ultimately trace the route of the chant in Russian Art Music throughout the entire twentieth-century.




Latvian Academy of Music,  Riga, Latvia


The Appearance of Russian Orthodox Genres and Composers in the Revival of Latvian Sacred Music


Latvia is a multi-religious country where the most prevalent are three Christian Confessions:


-       Evangelical Lutheran

-       Roman Catholic

-       Russian Orthodox.

Although Russian Orthodoxy in Latvia has an old and rich history, Orthodox traditions in musical compositions of the Latvian music history became incorporated much later, only at the end of 20th century. As Latvia regained independence (1980s and 1990s), the traditional churches also re-established themselves. At the same time, Latvian music culture was hit by the wave of the spirituality and religious music become even fashionable. Composers became interested in music genres of the old and established religions (Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox), such as masses, liturgies, hymns, vespers, sacred concerts, etc.


Nowadays, at the beginning of 21st, century, we have composers who are truly dedicated to sacred music and consider it to be their calling. Among them the following three are of the particular importance:


1)   Jurijs Glagoļevs’s/Yuriy Glagolyev’s (born in 1926) predecessors were known Orthodox priests and church choir conductors. He created sacred compositions for performance mainly in church ceremonies.


2)   Musical settings by Andrejs Selickis/Andrey Selickiy (born in 1960) are also inspired by his work as a singer and choir conductor of various Russian Orthodox churches in Riga. However, often the composer’s sacred oeuvre rises above the traditions and canons of his religious denomination – towards Christian ideas in a more general sense.



3)   The third composer who writes music according to the Russian Orthodox traditions is Georgs Pelēcis/Georg Pelēcis (born in 1926). Although he is not directly involved in church activities, his compositions are inspired by his faith. Five oratorios by him are considered to be an important contribution to Latvian sacred music history as well as intersecting with Russian Orthodox genres. The oratorio God is Love (2001) was specially composed as a dedication to Russian Orthodoxy in Latvia within the framework of the 800th Jubilee of Riga. This work, described by the author himself as “an ecumenical concert”, combines the Latvian and Russian languages, thus symbolically reflecting the interaction of two different cultures.




University College London, UK


Faith, Hope and Little Charity: The Reflection of Religion in Modern Belarusian Literature


Belarus was dominated by its neighbours from the mid-17th century onwards, and its history has taught it to be tolerant to the point of passivity, albeit not in religion where for centuries Belarusians have striven to retain their religious identity, despite opposition from within and without the country.


Poland and Russia attempted to impose Catholicism and Orthodoxy, respectively, but Uniate beliefs remained, and have been adopted by many contemporary writers.


In the 1920s in Western Belarus several clerical poets, whilst preaching the Catholic faith, defied the government by espousing nationalist ideas. Many such ‘bourgeois priests’ were to suffer murder and exile.


During most of Stalin’s time religion was banned in Belarus. Since the collapse of Communism, however, it became a prominent theme in literature, especially poetry. In the 1910s and following decades, a number of writers had written about the pull of Russia on the one hand and Poland on the other, leaving Belarus in the middle, trying to remain politically and spiritually independent. This theme has was taken up again by several prominent contemporary poets


Religious controversy, never far away, also entered scholarship, through falsification of the name of the enlightenment figure of Francis Skaryna.


Contemporary Belarusian literature contains myriad responses to God, from pious verses to angry challenges, particularly following the Chernobyl disaster. Notable are many lively dialogues with the Deity, who often seems to be rural and local, offering protection from the world around.




Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

The Echoes Of A Distant Past: Serbian Piano Music Inspired By The Orthodox Tradition

One of the most interesting strands of Serbian musical modernism that emerged in the decades after the World War Two was an idiosyncratic intertwining of the various neo- styles (neoclassicism, neoexpressionism etc.) with Orthodox tradition. This trend was distinguished by the nostalgic/poeticised relation towards the distant past (in particular, the idealised Middle Ages), and the aim to revive the “archaic” by using contemporary (including avant-garde) artistic means. This style has proved to be extremely vital and, with some modifications, it has survived to this day.

I will discuss piano music by several Serbian composers (Vasilije Mokranjac, Svetislav Božić, Miroslav Savić, et al.) who found inspiration in the Orthodox tradition. While some of them use verbatim quotations of church chants and work them into the pieces, others opt for a less direct approach, where the church music is only simulated (and often supported by the onomatopoeia of ubiquitous bells). I will not only discuss the differences in these composers' compositional approaches, but also the different roles that the evocations of Orthodox music have played in their piano pieces - ethical, mystical, nostalgic, or escapist.




University of Eastern Finland/CESEM – Universidade Nova, Lisbon


Orthodox Church Music and The Politics of the Unpolitical


Beginning with the idea of the “politics of the unpolitical” as formulated by the art critic Herbert Read, this paper discusses the idea of the possibility of the creation of Orthodox church music as, in relative terms, an “unpolitical” politics within the context of politically oppressive regimes.  Specific examples are taken from the history of sacred music in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia during the communist period. 




Kwantlen Polytechnic University at Langley, Canada

 Nikolai Korndorf’s Music for the Holy Space: More Thoughts on his 1978 Setting of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy


A work that has only recently appeared on the composer’s work list, and a composition best defined as written for the drawer, Nikolai Korndorf’s setting of the Orthodox Liturgy is an early work dating from 1978; this is music composed at the pre-dawn of a new era. The decade of the 1970s marked the beginning of Russia’s spiritual awakening; the allure of the Russian Orthodoxy crossed generations drawing many to and back into its fold, as if they were saying ‘this was once ours and let us reclaim it to make us whole’. Korndorf’s compositional approach appears to draw on earlier traditions that antedate and therefore bypass traditional 19th-century Russian sacred music trends. The composer recasts, reconnects and succeeds in re-establishing that long lost organic relationship between canonical texts and music. The very existence of this work begs the question: what is the significance of its genesis at this time? The following presents Korndorf’s Liturgy and proposes some answers to this question.




University of Lund, Sweden


Znamennyj rospev in shifting political contexts


This paper will address the reconstruction of znamennyj rospev in relation to

various political and cultural currents. These currents may be seen to have

impacted on the discourse on znamennyj rospev, although it might not be entirely clear to what extent that has influenced the actual interpretation of the



The reconstruction of znamennyj rospev appears largely to proceed from the perspective of a national historical narrative. It is obvious that from a Russian perspective znamennyj rospev relates to a national past. In most cases, the historiographical conception of this past forms the fundamental perspective from which the object is studied, together with the concept of samobytnost’ and the notion of the independent development of Russian music.


National and religious discourses are occasionally intertwined—for instance

in Slavophile thought in the 19th century, where a tendency towards an expansion of the Orthodox discourse to include the national aspect may be observed, whereas in the 20th century the Orthodox tradition becomes decontextualized in Soviet historiography, and is accordingly regarded as exclusively national.


On this background, the paper will discuss the question of nationalism and

decontextualization of chant within Soviet musicology.





Independent Researcher, London, UK


The poetic theatre of Vladimir Rubin


Born in 1924, Rubin served in the Red Army during the Second World War. Since the 1950s he has been active as a composer, living his philosophical and religious convictions in the medium of art. He survived the fall of the Soviet empire and the emotional turmoil, and witnessed the ensuing disruption of human souls that arose within this period.


A patriarch of the contemporary Russian compositional school who continues the line of Russian musical tradition, he took lessons from Vakhrameyev as a child, and was later a student of Goldenveyzer (1949, piano, Moscow conservatoire). Personally acquainted with Shostakovich and Sviridov, in his art he pursued the idea of poetic theatre and maintained the revival of the sacred word in his operas, choral and film music.


In what way did Vladimir Rubin perceive and embody in his work the reality of contemporary life? In what way could he deliver in his works a moral purity and the genuine honesty of his later choral pieces and operas? The paper is inspired by the composer’s personal communication with the author.





Oxford University, UK 


Stepan Smolensky and the Renaissance of Sacred Music in Russia: developments and discussions.


To understand Russian sacred music, it is crucial to investigate its history.  One of the most important in the history of sacred music in Russia was its renaissance, which took place at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.   After a long period of being a marginalized area subdued by foreign domination, Russian sacred music was at that time returning to its roots, ancient chants becoming an element of the vanguard of music creativity in Russia, and the subject of admiration for foreigners.   This renaissance included several simultaneous trends: historical research, composing, performing, educational issues and also public debates. For the first time in Russian history, sacred music was being discussed in leading newspapers!


A remarkable role in this renaissance was played by Stepan Smolensky (1848-1909), little known to Russians, let alone the English public.  His pioneering research into medieval sacred chants, his teaching and composing were not only germane to the renaissance, but also its essential ingredient. During this directorship the Moscow Synodal School became a first class educational institution and its Choir was hailed by Europeans as an outstanding phenomenon. Smolensk greatly influenced Kastalsky, Rachmaninoff, Grechaninov and others: thanks to his guidance many masterpieces were created (it is to him that Rachmaninoff dedicated his “All-Night Vigil”).  The so called New Direction in sacred music started and led by Smolensky represents one of the most glorious pages in cultural history of Russia.  Discussions of that time are both relevant and enlightening for those interested in sacred music nowadays. 





Centre for Russian Music, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK


Vladimir Martynov: Russian Orthodoxy as a Cultural and Compositional Aesthetic:



Vladimir Martynov (b. 1946) is one of Russia’s leading contemporary composers, noted for his long-term employment of minimalist techniques, as well as for his cultural and compositional manifesto, entitled ‘The End of the Composers’ Time’ (1996). Regarded as a polymath, with specialisms in Russian Orthodoxy, sacred choral music, Eastern and Western Philosophy and post-structural theory, Martynov advocates that contemporary compositional language should function as a form of ‘bricolage’; as a commentary on past cultures and musics, both secular and sacred, while connecting these to the present day. Directly influenced by Russian Orthodoxy as a doctrine, as form of ritual and as a source of archaic musical vocabulary, Martynov makes the connections between chant and Minimalism, while constructing what he terms a ‘New Sacral Space: a new type of performance ritual that aims to engender meditative contemplation within a postmodernist context.


Using private interview material, previously unseen manuscripts as well as a range of Martynov’s published writings, this paper aims to examine the influence of Russian Orthodoxy on his wider cultural and compositional aesthetic. It examines how this has shaped his creative philosophies; examining within this context, the connections that he makes between chant and minimalism. It also discusses how Russian Orthodoxy has influenced his own performance aesthetic and approach to ritual.