Baldassare Galuppi and Russian Church Music


The visit of Baldassare Galuppi to Russia was rather short — it lasted only 3 years (1765–68), but proved to have great consequences for the development of Russian music culture. Galuppi composed operas and cantatas for the Court of Catherine the Great, and also wrote a number of choral concertos to Old Church Slavonic texts for the use during the Russian Orthodox Liturgy by the Court Chapel Choir. At the time of Galuppi’s living in Russia, the Court and people close to it were mostly impressed by his operas. However, the impact of his creative activity and his compositions came out of the framework of secular music genres. In fact, while his operas turned out to be of interest for the Court only for a short time, though the interest being enormous, his choir concertos were soon widely performed in the farthest places of Russia, as shown by manuscripts from Vologodskaya, Yaroslavskaya and other regions. The majority of musicologists consider Galuppi to be the founder of this important genre of the Russian church music. Having spent in Russia such a short time, Galuppi managed to leave there a certain long-lasting music tradition, mostly through his scholar Bortnyansky, who studied with him for a long time in Italy and after returning home became one of the most famous Russian composers of his time. There has been a continuous discussion in Russia whether the European style of the church music written by Galuppi, Bortnyansky and their successors conforms to the Orthodox Liturgy or not. Nevertheless, this style prevailed in Russia for a long time. The paper will highlight new pieces of evidence showing the high occurrence of Galuppi’s sacred concertos in Russian churches, as revealed by hand-written singing books found in archives of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Berlin. In particular, examination of the Berlin archive allowed us to attribute to Galuppi one of the choral pieces previously ascribed in this archive to Bortnyansky.