Belarusian Composers and Classical Music

Belarus was always on the cross-roads of different armies. The turmoil of wars disrupted many time normal development of Belarusian culture. It is as hard to trace a single timeline of Belarusian history as it is to write the history of Belarusian culture. Nevertheless we will attempt to collect here the history of Belarusian classical music and its main figures. This is a living page you are welcome to send your comments and additions.

Early Music:


XVII century:

  • opera Faust by Radzivill
  • "Polacak Notebook" and "Courants" - XVII century monuments of domestic musical culture of the Baroque epoch, collections of vocal and instrumental pieces of music.
  • Vilna Notebook - collection of pieces for a chamber orchestra,
  •  the ballet Polonaise by Aginski
  • Stanislau Maniushka - this Polish composer created his most outstanding works while residing in Belarus. It is here that his individual artistic style and unique manner of composition were developed. Stanislau Maniushka lived in Minsk (today's Belarus capital) for many years. It is here he created in cooperation with Belarusian poet Vincent Dunin-Macinkevich an opera "Syalianka" ("Peasant woman"). He had also worked in Vil'na (today Vilnius). Maniushka composed majority of his chamber and vocal pieces while in Belarus. The 2004 Mir castle Music festival was devoted to 185th anniversary of Stanislau Maniushka.

XVIII century:

Y. Golland, E. Van-zhura, M. Radzivil, R. Vardotsky (opera "Apollo the Legislator, or Reformed Parnassus").

XIX- Early XX century:

From the beginning of the 19th century in large cities (Vitebsk, Grodno, Minsk, Mogilev) city orchestras acted, plays were staged ("Recruitment" and "Peasant Woman" by S. Moniuszko to libretto of V. Dunin-Martsinkevich). Composers A. Abramovich, M. Yelsky, F. Miladovsky, N. Orda, etc. were creating at that time.

Soviet Belarus:

Some historical accounts from heavily biased toward Soviet propaganda official Belarusian sources:

"V. Zolotaryov, pupil of N. Rimski-Korsakov, who headed the composers' education at the conservatoire. Among his students were outstanding composers: A. Bogatyryov, P. Podkovyrov, L. Abeliovich, D. Lukas, V. Olovnikov.

The pre-war years witnessed active creative activity of N. Aladov, Y. Tikotsky, N. Churkin, G. Pukst. Operas "Mikhas Podgorny" by Y. Tikotsky, "In Polesye Virgin Forest" by A. Bogatyryov, ballet "Nightingale" by M. Kroshner became bright events of cultural life.

During the Great Patriotic War the Belarusian people went through heaviest ordeals possible. Fight against the fascist occupation became the main subject of musical art. Creation of cantata "To Belarusian Partisans" (text by Y. Kupala) by A. Bogatyryov, opera "Alesya" about national avengers by Y. Tikotsky (libretto by P. Brovka) became prominent.

In the post-war period the pedagogical activity of A. Bogatyryov as a tutor of the majority of Belarusian composers of subsequent generations became extremely relevant. They are Y. Glebov who is intensively working in all musical genres, but has gained special recognition in the genre of ballet: "Alpine Ballad", "The Elect", "Tyhl Uhlenspiegel", "Little Prince"; A. Mdivani who addresses in his works to historical subjects [ballet "Passions" ("Rogneda")]; V. Soltan who created a remarkable opera "Wild Hunting of King Stakh". Its staging received a broad public resonance.

In the genre of songs V. Olovnikov, Y. Semenyako, I. Kuznetsov, I. Luchenok, Y. Glebov, V. Budnik, E. Zaritsky and many others are working successfully. In 1980s-1990s works of spiritual music appeared (L. Shleg, V. Kopytsko, A. Bondarenko).

A significant cultural event of the latest years was awarding in Paris of the Benois de la Dance Prize to V. Yelizariev, Art Director of the National Academic Theatre of Ballet for the best choreography in the world-wide ballet art of 1996. The Prize was awarded for staging of the "Passions" ballet of the Belarusian composer A. Mdivani dedicated to the topic of national history. This ballet was also marked by the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus. Distinctive events of ballet and opera art were premieres of ballets "Spring Sacred" and "Firebird" by I. Stravinsky, "Circular Motion" by O. Zaletnev, operas "Visit of a Lady" by S. Kortes, "Prince Igor" by A. Borodin, etc. Increase of creative activity, strengthening of material-technical base, level of performers was promoted by transformation of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Opera and Ballet into the Creative Association "The National Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Opera and Ballet of the Republic of Belarus".

Premieres of works of various genres created by Belarusian composers took place: concerto for piano and symphonic orchestra, "Divertissement" for chamber orchestra by D. Smolsky, Symphony No. 4. by G. Vagner, concerto for trombone and symphonic orchestra by G. Gorelova, the first symphony by O. Khodosko, etc. State Prizes were awarded to programs of the "Khoroshki" Belarusian State Choreographic Ensemble and the State Orchestra of Symphonic and Variety Music."

  • N. A. Yanchuk
  • M. Federovsky
  • G. R. Shirma
  • L. S. Mukharinskaya
  • G. I. Tsitovich
  • A.K. Shidlouski
  • Yauhen Hlebau

Modern days Belarus:

Events and announcements:

  • The 1  International Soloists’ Competition named after L.P. Aleksandrovskaya will take place in Minsk (Republic of Belarus) in the period of November, 24 – December, 1, 2004, and will be dedicated to the 100th birth anniversary of the famous Belarusian singer, the People’s Artist of the USSR L.P.Aleksandrovskaya. Only the soloists, born not earlier than in 1973, can take part in the competition. Applications for participation in the Competition are accepted until the 1st of July, 2004, by the following address.

    Honestly I am estranged by the age census in this competition. It excludes participation of most of the World famous soloists. Well, what else could you expect from a police state in the center of Europe? I guess, next thing they will allow participation of only blue eyed soloists :/
  • Belarusian Chapel - is part of the Belarusian National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre and has officially existed since May 1992. During this time the small creative group has given a new lease of life to music created by the great Belarusian composers of past centuries. Belarusian Chapel, being a social organization, arranged in 2001 its first festival - the Restoration of the Belarusian Chapel. The group’s various activities include exploring, editing, performing and note publishing. Among the most popular works, performed by Belarusian Chapel are the opera Faust by Radzivill, Polotsk Copybook and Vilno Copybook - two collections of pieces for a chamber orchestra, the ballet Polonaise by Aginski and a series of songs by Schumann, Schubert and Brahms. The note anthologies, Music of Olden Manors and Belarusian Historical Note Collection have also been published.

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