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The Russians didn’t really participate in the Renaissance or the Baroque periods of music in the same way the rest of Europe did.

During the Renaissance, Russia was dealing with the Golden Horde of the Mongols. During the Baroque they were becoming Imperial Russia.

By the 19th Century Russia was sufficiently stabilized and open to Western influences that music began to flourish. The condemnation of secular music by the Orthodox Church also started to relax.

The best representation of Russian music is their sacred choral tradition. I have written about the depth and majesty of this music from time to time.

This is where we will start with the pious Chesnokov versus the Soviet Kabalevsky.

Chesnokov had written 400 sacred pieces of music by the time the Soviet State started oppressing religious expression. Chesnokov went on to write another 100 secular choral pieces but when the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was demolished on December 5th, 1931, he was so heartbroken that he never wrote another piece of music. Chesnokov had been the last choirmaster of the cathedral.

Chesnokov’s music has a mystical sincerity that could melt the intellect of the staunchest atheist.

Kabalevsky was not only a composer but also one of the great music educators. His book Music and Education: a composer writes about music and education was published in the United States in the 1988.

Kabalevsky’s music tends to sound somewhat upbeat and doesn’t contain much of the pathos we all so love about Russian music.


Chesnokov wins this one even though he is something of a specialist and didn’t compose across all genres in the same way Kabalevsky did.

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