Dmytro Bortniansky

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Dmytro Bortniansky
Бортнянский (1788).jpg
Born(1751-10-28)28 October 1751
Died10 October 1825(1825-10-10) (aged 73)

Dmytro Stepanovych Bortniansky[1] (Ukrainian: Дмитро Степанович Бортнянський) or Dmitry Stepanovych Bortniansky (Russian: Дмитрий Степанович Бортнянский, ; alternative transcriptions of names are Dmitri, Bortnianskii, and Bortnyansky; 28 October 1751, Hlukhiv, Cossack Hetmanate–10 October [O.S. 28 September] 1825)[2] was a Ukrainian composer and conductor of Rusyn descent.[3]

Bortniansky is best known today for his liturgical works and his prolific contributions to the genre of choral concertos.[4] 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 and Church Slavonic.



Dmytro Bortniansky was born on 28 October 1751 in the city of Hlukhiv, in present-day Ukraine, but which was then a part of the autonomous Cossack Hetmanate within the Russian Empire. His father was Stefan Skurat (or Shkurat), a Lemko-Rusyn Orthodox religious refugee from the village of Bartne in the Malopolska region (he was entered in the Cossack register at Hlukhiv in 1755).[5] At the age of seven, Dmitry's 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 Saint Petersburg Court Capella in 1779 and flourished creatively. He composed at least four more operas (all in French, with libretti by Franz-Hermann Lafermière): Le Faucon (1786), La fête 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 10 October 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[edit]

In 1882, Pyotr Tchaikovsky edited the liturgical works of Bortniansky, which were published in ten volumes. While 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 church hymn 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 part of the military ceremony Großer Zapfenstreich (the Grand Tattoo), the highest ceremonial act of the German army, rendered as an honor for distinguished persons on special occasions. 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."

He composed "The Angel Greeted the Gracious One" (hymn to the Mother of God used at Pascha) as a trio used by many Orthodox churches in the Easter season.



Choruses (in Old Church Slavonic)[edit]

  • Da ispravitsia molitva moja ("Let My Prayer Arise") no. 2.
  • Kjeruvimskije pjesni (Cherubic Hymns) nos. 1-7
  • Concerto No. 1: Vospoitje Gospodjevi ("Sing unto the Lord")
  • Concerto No. 6: Slava vo vyshnikh Bogu
  • Concerto No. 7: Priiditje, vozradujemsja Gospodjevi ("Come Let Us Rejoice")
  • Concerto No. 9: Sei djen', jego zhe Gospodi, konchinu moju
  • Concerto No. 11: Blagoslovjen Gospod' ("Blessed is the Lord")
  • Concerto No. 15: Priiditje, vospoim, ljudije
  • Concerto No. 18: Blago jest ispovjedatsja ("It Is Good To Praise the Lord", Psalm 92)
  • Concerto No. 19: Rjechje Gospod' Gospodjevi mojemu ("The Lord Said unto My Lord")
  • Concerto No. 21: Zhyvyi v pomoshshi Vyshnjago ("He That Dwelleth", Psalm 91)
  • Concerto No. 24: Vozvjedokh ochi moi v gory ("I Lift Up My Eyes to the Mountains")
  • Concerto No. 27: Glasom moim ko Gospodu vozzvakh ("With My Voice I Cried Out to the Lord")
  • Concerto No. 32: Skazhy mi, Gospodi, konchinu moju ("Lord, Make Me Know My End")
  • Concerto No. 33: Vskuju priskorbna jesi dusha moja ("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. ^ Dmytro Bortniansky, Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta/University of Toronto
  2. ^ HymnTime
  3. ^ Marika Kuzma. "Bortnyans′ky, Dmytro Stepanovych." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 22 November 2011
  4. ^ Morozan, Vladimir (2013). "Russian Choral Repertoire". In Di Grazia, Donna M. Nineteenth-Century Choral Music. p. 437.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-02. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  6. ^ (in Russian) "Бортнянский, Дмитрий Степанович". Krugosvet Encyclopedia

External links[edit]