In this concert, Holly Roberts (violin), Margaret Gries (harpsichord), and Marc Vanscheeuwijck (cello) will present rarely-heard music by 17th-century Italian and Polish composers whose music was performed in Russia (Merula, Buonamente, Jarzebski), and by the first 18th-century musicians who were active in Saint Petersburg (Dall’Oglio, Madonis).
Music in the Baroque style as we understand it today did not become part of Russian art music until the 18th century. In Moscow, composer and theorist Nikolay Diletsky spread a new sacred polyphonic music style originally from Ukraine known as partesnoye peniye (part-singing) in the 1670–80s, but folksongs performed by itinerant artists (the skomorokhi) were still much preferred. However, when Russian delegations repeatedly visited Italy in the 17th century, some music by such Northern Italian composers as Tarquinio Merula and Giovanni Battista Buonamente made its way to Moscow, often by way of the court of Warsaw, where Polish composer Adam Jarzebski was active.
When Peter the Great became tsar in 1682, he organized the full Westernization of Russia, and decided to create one of the finest and most civilized courts in Europe. Saint Petersburg was swiftly built on virgin swampland as of 1703. Not only did he invite several Italian architects and painters to build various palaces and churches in the new city, but he also attracted Italian and German composers. The latter were to train the military band, whereas Empress Anna on the other hand, encouraged a far wider range of musical activities, and Italian musicians also began to work in Russia. Some of the earliest instrumental music composed there dates from the 1730s, including 12 violin sonatas (1738) by Luigi Madonis (c.1690–c.1770, and 12 more by Giovanni Verocai (c.1700–45). Theatres were opened in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and Russia had its first taste of opera with Calandro (1726) by Giovanni Ristori (1692–1753), performed by an Italian troupe in 1731, and La forza dell'amore e dell'odio (1734) by Francesco Araia.
This concert has been organized in conjunction with the current exhibition “Splendor & Light: Highlights of Russian Art.”