Born: October 27, 1745 (?) – Hlukhiv, Cossack Hetmanate, Ukraine
Died: March 24, 1777 – Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
A few facts about Berezovsky
- Details of Berezovsky’s early life are scarce, and much of his biographical material is taken on a novel written about him in 1840 and a play that was adapted from it.
- In 1758 he was accepted into the Capella (choir) of the future Tzar Peter III and two years later became a member of the Italian Capella of the Imperial Palace. He was to remain a court musician for the next seven years.
- He was sent to Italy in 1769 to study with Padre Martini at the Bologna Accademia Filarmonica and graduated as a member of the Accademia two years later. While he was in Italy he composed his only known opera, Il Demofonte, which met with great success on its premiere at the winter carnival in Livorno.
- Though he composed secular music he was best regarded for his religious choral works. He is credited with creating a style of choral concerto set to sacred texts which lifted them to a new level. Many were thought lost however thanks to recent research 12 of the 18 concerti have been discovered.
- The Berezovsky of the novel and play committed suicide in 1777 because of a Palace intrigue. This appears to be pure fiction and it is most likely that he caught a fever that resulted in his early death at the age of 32.
Symphony no. 1 in C major
Composed: 1770-72 (?)
Premiered: 1773 – Livorno, Italy (?)
Instrumentation: oboes, horns, strings, cembalo
Performance Time: 10 minutes
- Berezovsky’s first symphony was believed lost, however in 2007 American conductor Stephen Fox discovered a copy in the Vatican Library. He has since conducted performances in London, St. Petersburg, and New York.
- Given the three movement “Italian” form, it is possible that it was also used as the Sinfonia or overture for Il Demofonte at its premiere in Livorno. This would account for the presence of the score in the Papal library.
- Berezovsky follows the form of the early three movement classic symphony: a fast movement, a slow movement, and a final fast movement. His addition of the horns and oboe shows the move to expand the symphony beyond the strings that had recently immerged.
- Berezovsky’s Symphony no. 1 is now recognized as the first symphony written by a Ukrainian composer.
Given that it was only recently rediscovered it is surprising the number of versions currently available on YouTube. Perhaps this performance by the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra conducted by Luigi Gaggero is appropriate at this time. It was part of a concert near the Ukrainian Parliament on June 28th 2021 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of adoption of the Constitution.