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ALEXANDER KASTALSKY  

(1856 - 1926)

Kastalsky was a seminal figure upon the national musical landscape of Russia in the first two decades of the 20th century. A student of Tchaikovsky and Taneyev, he was appointed to the faculty of the Moscow Synodal School of Church Singing in 1887 and remained affiliated with that institution until it was closed in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. As a composer, conductor, folklorist, and administrator, by nature inquisitive and innovative, he moved freely among the spheres of church, classical, and folk music in a way very much his own. In his time, he was acclaimed as the founder of a new, truly national Russian style of church music, in which melodies and individual chant formulas of Znamenny—the earliest notated chant known among the Eastern Slavs—and other ecclesiastical chants are combined with techniques of counter-voice polyphony drawn from the Russian choral folk song. The skilful use of these peculiarly Russian elements give Kastalsky’s works a marked national flavour, while the use of church melodies links them to centuries-old traditions of the Eastern Orthodox liturgical aesthetic. His compositional techniques were emulated and developed by a host of composers, including Pavel and Alexander Chesnokov, Alexander Grechaninov, Viktor Kalinnikov, Alexander Nikolsky, Konstantin Shvedov, Nikolai Tcherepnin, and Sergey Rachmaninov: the latter would send pages of his manuscripts to Kastalsky for comment and approval.

Kastalsky’s compositional output was largely limited to miniature forms—sacred choruses, some 175 of them, and choral folk song arrangements.

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