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A new musical composition dedicated to St. Al…

A new musical composition dedicated to St. Alexander Nevsky is performed in Moscow.

An oratorio entitled Under the Banner of St. Alexander, composed by Vladimir Borisovich Dovgan, was performed at the Moscow International House of Music as part of the XII Moscow Christmas Festival of Religious Music on 15th January 2022. The oratorio has been composed to mark the 800th anniversary of the birth of the right-believing Prince Alexander Nevsky. Forming the basis of the work were unique materials from the chronicles and Life of Saint Alexander Nevsky, ecclesiastical texts and verses by Apollon Maikov.

The composer’s intention was for this great historical figure to be brought to life with the aid of modern-day choral devices with readings alternating with musical pieces reflecting the events being narrated. The role of the connecting thread between the separate pieces is played by the gusli (a multi-stringed plucked instrument similar to a zither) which acts as the “voice of the author.”

The oratorio was performed by Mayakovsky Theatre artist Alexei Fateyev, the Yaroslavia philharmonic choral capella under the direction of Vladimir Kontarev and soloists from the Moscow regional philharmonic Alina Yarova (soprano) Rodion Vasenkin (bass), Olga Alexeyeva and Marfa Nikitina (gusli).

At the end of the concert the composer was greeted by the director of the Moscow Christmas Festival of Religious Music the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate the metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion:

“Dear Vladimir Borisovich,

You have seen yourself the reception the public has given to your music. I am very happy that we have had the opportunity to present this remarkable composition as part of the XII Moscow Christmas Festival of Religious Music. You have reminded us of the remarkable Russian saint who is dear to millions of Russian people. You know that he is particularly dear to His Holiness the Patriarch. I believe that many of those here present will recall how shortly before his election to the Patriarchal throne he ardently and with enthusiasm came to the defense of the name of Saint Alexander Nevsky in the Name of Russia TV programme. Today we have heard a narration about the saint and heard music which illustrates this narration.

I would like on behalf of myself to thank you personally for this work, especially as you have reminded people of the heroic feats of another saint, which is the right-believing Prince Michael of Chernigov. As rector of the church in honour of St. Michael of Chernigov and his boyar Theodore I find this especially pleasing.

Dear Vladimir Borisovich, I have known you for almost half a century. When we became acquainted, you were still a young man and I was a schoolboy and studied composition under you. And I am in your debt for all that I know in the sphere of musical composition. I recall how you said that a composer ought to draw his inspiration from living sources: from folk music and from the preceding musical tradition. Today, thanks to your new work, we heard how you follow these principles. You draw your inspiration from folk music, from the works of Prokofiev and Sviridov, and of course from church music.

On behalf of all those here present and all those who as a result of the difficult times we find ourselves in were unable to come to this concert I would like to wish you good health and creative success. May the Lord bless your labours and preserve you for many and good years.”

In reply, Vladimir Dovgan thanked metropolitan Hilarion, the organizers, participants and guests of the Moscow Christmas Festival of Religious Music. “Music comes alive only when the performers breath true life into it. Today before our very eyes music has been born. And I am very grateful to you all,” the composer said.

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