Obscure Russia

The Nederlands Kamerkoor ushers in the new year with a spectacular a cappella programme. The Russian singer and researcher Daniil Sayapin has collected some unique scores from Russian convents and archives…   

Works in the so-called Strochnoe tradition, which with their astonishing harmonies may sound strange to Western ears. With Sayapin as precentor, the Nederlands Kamerkoor will draw on this magnificent collection of music to reconstruct an 17th-century Requiem. Obscure Russian sounds from a rich musical past.

The Russian Requiem Great Panikhida, reconstructed by the Russian singer and researcher Daniil Sayapin, will be performed in eight prestigious concert halls of the Netherlands.

Before the concert in Haarlem on January 26th, Daniil Sayapin will give a Masterclass in which he will share more about the Russian early music repertoire.

More info about the concerts

The Great Panikhida at Donemus


The period of ancient Russian staff-less multi-part singing was relatively short: from the end of the 15th century to the first half of the 18th. In this short time span, it developed rapidly and reached its peak by the middle of the 17th century. Manuscripts dating from the beginning of this period show only traces of multi-part singing. A consistent form of notation followed, where voices entering the polyphonic relationship are written together, one after another. This form is replaced by pogolosny, wherein every voice is notated on a separate staff (vocal part). Score notation already appears in the sources from the first half of the 17th century. In these manuscripts, chanting is notated using the special neume notation known as kazansky (kazansky znamya). The beginning of staff notation can be seen in the early 18th century, with the accurate transformation of neume notation (Example 1) into an early form of 5-staff notation (Example 2), which was easier to read. The latter form became a key factor in reading polyphonic chants written using kazansky znamya. The precision of such translations is undoubtedly correct, since they were done by educated singers who perfectly commanded both neume and sheet music writing forms.

Polyphonic singing was performed by highly qualified professionals and formed the repertoire basis of nobility’s employees and Patriarch’s singing clerks. Its beauty and refinement finds no counterpart in other national musical cultures. Compositions of strochny and demestvenny polyphonic chants belong to the masterpieces of anonymous composers of ancient Russia. Nowadays only a few of them are known, the most famous being Varlaam Rogov (†1603), Metropolitan of Rostov.

This edition contains two types of multi-part singing: strochny (3-part) and demestvenny. One-voice monodic chants (putevoy /putny and demestvenny) are used as cantus firmi in relevant voices. The Putevoy chant was named due to its special extension. The term demestvenny comes from late Greek δομέστικος (literally “domestic”), referring to the head of the choir and its soloist. The Demestvenny chant is a kind of master chanting.

The Strochny (3-part) polyphony is in the core of the present selection. This type of singing was fundamental in ancient Russian culture. It is based on the “path” (putevoy/putny) chant, doubling the repertoire of the znamenny chant. In numerous manuscripts, linear notation is presented both by vocal and non-vocal singing. The entire base of monodic chanting likewise became the foundation of three-part singing: eight church modes, melodic structure, and long musical phrases (litzy and fity).

The demestvo or demestvenny polyphony is probably the most solemn chant of the Moscow Russia period. Due to its extraordinary complexity, its repertoire is limited. It was considered the most perfect and skilful singing technique, referred to as “the most wonderful way of singing” in contemporary sources. This edition represents four works of demestvo: small litany (XXIII), kontakion (XXIV), conclusion (XVIII) and memory eternal (XXX).

The primary sources of the present music were provided by manuscripts of the second half of the 17th century. The purpose of this edition is to show some samples of a unique musical form, the importance of which is comparable with masterpieces of Leonin (c. 1150–1201), Perotin the Great (fl. c. 1200) and Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–1377).

Hopefully, the art of the ancient Russian chant will be recognized as an indisputable masterpiece along with icon painting, temple architecture, and literature monuments.

New Service for Libraries extended

Donemus offered a new service to Libraries and Conservatories. Students could access all scores and download them as PDF. Several Conservatories arranged a license by paying an annual fee to Donemus for their students. After the pilot both the Conservatories and Donemus decided to extend this cooperation…   

Seven Dutch conservatories have settled a license to access thousands of scores in PDF. The rich catalogue of Donemus contains over 14,000 scores. Students can create their own account which will be approved by Donemus. When students want to perform a work and need the parts, they can order it in the usual way at Donemus.

Donemus will offer this service to conservatories and libraries more. This is a great way for composers to have their scores promoted and gain more interest of younger generations who are the musicians of tomorrow. Donemus will split the revenues and add it to the composers’ royalties.

‘We are very pleased with this renewed agreement.’ says Luuk Hoekstra on behalf of the Dutch Conservatories

Email us for more information about the licensing options