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Nemkova O.

The Blessed Virgin’s Lament: modern musical genre-style interpretations of the ancient apocrypha

The article investigates the problem of contemporary musical realization of an ancient religious and poetic plot dating back to the early Christian Apocrypha and later imprinted in outstanding examples of Church poetry under the name “the Blessed Virgin’s Lament”. Based on analytical study and comparison of sacred and concert works from the 1990s to the first decade of the 2000s, the author reveals features of the refraction of traditional and innovative principles in the embodiment of the image and thematic sphere in contemporary works. The main material of the study includes four compositions: harmonization of the sacred verse from the Old Belief notes of the 19th century “the Blessed Virgin’s Lament” performed by cenobite Iuliana (Irina Denisova); numbers from two large-scale cantata-oratorio works such as oratorios “St. Matthew Passion” by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) and “Russian Passion” by Alexey Larin; fragments from a choral cycle (choral frescoes) “Grieving pleasures of the virgin. Sacred poems” by Dmitry Smirnov. The main criterion for determining the genre specific of the musical renderings of the Lament lies in peculiarities of the composers’ individual creative approach to the canonical (Church), secular (theatre drama, concert), and folk (sacred and religious folk art) image and content spheres. A high degree of theme elaboration of the Blessed Virgin’s Lament in the sacred verse initially determined the polyvariance of contemporary interpretations of the ancient plot from those close to Orthodox dogmatics to ones brightly emphasising pagan features in a given image. A particular attention is paid to the Lament role being either objective or individual, during the process of creating an image semantic structure in a work. The Communion verse is interpreted as an exponent of the evolutionary continuity of the “folk theology” tradition to the point of making the Lament so significant as if it were the most important constituent in a complicated and multistage drama concept.

Key words

the Blessed Virgin’s Lament, contemporary sacred concert music, Apocrypha, religious poetry, sacred verse, Passion oratorio, choral cycle, “folk theology”.

For citation

Nemkova O. The Blessed Virgin’s Lament: modern musical genre-style interpretations of the ancient apocrypha // South-Russian musical anthology. 2019.N 4. PP. 77–84.