Maxim Berezovsky

1745-1777, Ukraine

Ukrainian composer, conductor, singer. He is the author of spiritual concertos and the opera Demophon, as well as the first Ukrainian symphony. A classic of European music.
He was born in Hlukhiv, Sumy region, to a Cossack family, in a town where musicians were trained to work at the court of the Russian emperors (see Hlukhiv Singing School). He received his higher education at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, where he began to compose his own works.

In 1758, due to his exceptional vocal skills, he was sent to St. Petersburg, where he became a soloist in the Court Singing Chapel of Prince Petro Fedorovych. There he was introduced to European music of the time.

In 1759-1760 he performed as a soloist in the Italian Opera Company in Oranienbaum and St. Petersburg.

In 1769, he was sent to Italy to study at the Bologna Philharmonic Academy, where he took lessons from the famous composer and music historian Padre Giovanni Baptista Martini, with whom he studied for about eight years. In order to be eligible to become a Kapellmeister, he passed the exam on May 15, 1771, for the title of academician of the Philharmonic in Bologna together with a Czech composer named Josef Mysliveček. He graduated from the Academy with honors. In the same years, the young Mozart studied at the Bologna Academy.

In 1771, Berezovsky was awarded the title of maestro di musica and was elected a member of the Bologna Philharmonic Society. Until 1773, the only completed opera by Berezovsky, Demophonte, was staged in Livorno in 1773 during the carnival holidays. In early 1774, he returned to St. Petersburg with a squadron of Russian ships under the leadership of Alexei Orlov.

Upon his return to the Russian Empire in 1774, M. Berezovsky faced indifference from government officials. He was promised the position of director of the Kremenchuk Music Academy, but this project was not to be realized. Maksym Berezovskyi was enrolled (without a position) as a church singer and Kapellmeister of the Court Singing Chapel.

Constant deprivation and the inability to find a use for his creative forces led the composer to illness. In 1777, the 31-year-old composer died. Subsequently, a version of suicide was spread, which is questioned by contemporary biographers of the composer, in particular by Berezovsky's biographer M. Ryttsarieva. In her opinion, the composer's death was the result of an infectious disease, and the rumor of Berezovsky's suicide began to spread in the literature in 1810 at the suggestion of Metropolitan Yevhen (Bolkhovitinov).

An equally tragic fate befell his works, which either gathered dust or were destroyed altogether. Most of Berezovsky's works existed only in manuscripts. Only a few compositions were published, which, in fact, brought him world fame.

His legacy
Berezovsky is known as a composer of sacred concertos, which he wrote after returning from Italy (the most popular is the concerto "Do not reject me in my old age"). In his work, he combined the experience of Western European musical culture of the time with national traditions of choral art. Together with D. Bortnyansky, he created a classical type of choral concert.

Sacred music
Berezovsky's sacred music includes the Liturgy, communion poems, a song of praise, and a number of concertos, of which only a small part has survived. In addition to Church Slavonic texts, Berezovsky also used texts in English (a song of praise) and German ("Our Father").

In the liturgy, the composer used the constant harmonic polyphony characteristic of partes music, the juxtaposition of tutti and ensemble episodes, and the 3/2 and 4/2 meter.

The participatory verses are based on psalm texts of a predominantly thanksgiving nature, and Berezovsky's interpretation of them is mainly lyrical (with the exception of "Rejoice the Righteous" and "Praise the Lord from Heaven" No. 3, which are solemnly panegyric in their imagery). The choral texture is quite diverse, with some pieces having a constant harmonic texture (e.g., "Praise the Lord from Heaven" No. 1), others combining harmonic with imitative ("To the whole earth"), or using polyphonic texture ("Blessed are those who have chosen"), including a fugue ("Praise the Lord from Heaven" No. 2). Even more striking than in the Liturgy, the melodization of voices is observed in the communion poems. The melody of the verses is expressive and varied, and often shows similarities to typical turns of phrase in Ukrainian lyrical songs.
The sacred concertos occupy a prominent place in the composer's work, and as a genre they were raised to the highest musical and artistic level. Choral concertos inherited many features of partes concertos, including a combination of chordal and polyphonic textures, but also absorbed the traditions of Western European music, including a new harmonic language with a functional harmonic scale system. All of the concertos are multi-movement cycles composed on the principle of figurative, tempo, and textural contrast, but united by thematic integrity, which is achieved by intonational connections between the extreme movements, and in the last concerto - throughout the entire work. The most famous is the concerto "Don't Reject Me in My Old Age," published by the Court Chapel in St. Petersburg in 1842. In the 2000s, thanks to M. Yurchenko's research activities, 11 more concertos were published, and thus, as of 2020, 12 concertos have been published.

Opera "Demophon"
The composer's only opera, Demophonte, was written in Italy and staged in Livorno in 1773, as described in an article in the local newspaper Notizie del mondo. Only 4 arias from this opera have survived, which testify to the composer's close ties with the Neapolitan and Venetian opera schools. Guided by the contemporary trends in the development of the opera-serie, Berezovsky reveals emotionality and sincerity, sensual tenderness and nobility, and melodic beauty in his music.

Sonata for violin and cembalo
Berezovsky's only known instrumental work is the Sonata for Violin and Cembalo, written in Pisa in 1772. The manuscript of this sonata was kept in the Paris National Library, found by musicologist Vasyl Vytvytskyi, later transcribed by M. Stepanenko and published by the Musical Ukraine publishing house in 1983.

The sonata has three movements, with energetic outer movements contrasting with the slow middle movement. As in the opera Demophon, Berezovsky follows the traditions of Western European music of the time, clearly showing his lyrical talent.

Symphony in C major
In the early 2000s, thanks to the efforts of the American conductor Stephen Fox, Berezovsky's lost Symphony in C, also known in Ukraine as Symphony No. 1, composed in 1770-1772, was found in the Vatican archives. This composition, like most of Berezovsky's works, was considered to have disappeared since the eighteenth century. After the discovery of the C major symphony, Russia immediately classified this work as a cultural treasure of their country, calling it the "First Russian Symphony." In 2016, Ukrainian conductor Kyrylo Karabyts publicly stated that this work was written by a Ukrainian composer.


Sculptor I. Kolomiets. Monument to Maksym Berezovsky in Hlukhiv
In 1995, a monument to the composer was erected in Hlukhiv (sculpted by Inna Kolomiets).

In 2005, a memorial plaque in honor of Ukrainian composer Maksym Berezovsky was installed on the facade of the Bologna Academy of Music. After Mozart, Berezovsky became the second foreign composer to be honored in this way at the world-famous center of culture and arts, the Bologna Academy.

A children's art school in Hlukhiv and streets in Rivne and Chernihiv are named after the composer.

fragments of compositions by M. Berezovsky
Concert "Do not reject me" (file)
performed by the Glinka Chapel
Symphony in C major (file)
performed by Pratum Integrum Orchestra
"Demophonte (libretto by P. Metastasio, 1773, staged in 1774 in Livorno, Italy),
"Iphigenia (unfinished);
Choral works
More information: List of choral works by Maksym Sozontovych Berezovsky
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,
Spiritual concerts

God in a hundred hosts of gods
In all the tongues, let us sing with our hands
O Lord, by your power the king shall rejoice
The Lord reign
Let God arise
I will sing to thee of mercy and judgment, O Lord.
I will not imitate any other help.
Do not reject me in my old age
Come and see the works of God
Glory to God in the highest
To you be the glory of God #1
To you be the glory of God #2

Blessed are those who are chosen
In memory eternal
To the whole earth
Be a sign to us
Rejoice, ye righteous
O ye spirits of the angels
Praise the Lord from heaven #1
Praise the Lord from heaven #2
Praise the Lord from heaven #3
I will take the cup of salvation
Instrumental music
Sonata for violin and cembalo (1772)
Symphony in C major No. 1
Symphony in G major No. 2
Symphony in C major No. 3
Sonatas for cembalo (controversial)

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