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O. Kushnir

Cantata “The Incomprehensible God” by Shirvani Chalaev: Towards the problem of artistic and religious conceptual idea

Cantata “The Incomprehensible God” by Shirvani Chalaev is a sacred concert composition for contralto, children’s (female) or mixed choir and string orchestra. The Cantata has been repeatedly performed and has become an integral part of the modern spiritual concert anthology. The composition was blessed by an Orthodox priest, who was impressed by the music of the composer. The work belongs to the “non-traditional genres” of sacred music (the term proposed by A. Kovalev). The Cantata includes fourteen movements.

The poetic basis of the composition is represented by the works of Russian authors: G. Derzhavin, M. Lermontov, L. Mei. An exception is the canonical text of Oikos the 6th from the Akathist to the Most Holy Virgin in honor of Her icon “Unexpected Joy”, used in the 11s part. In the poetic text of the work there is a number of religious symbols, to which the composer draws listeners’ attention. Among them are important components of a Christian’s communication with the Creator: a person’s pursuit of God, his obedience and faithful fulfillment of life duties, repentance for the sins of despair and vanity, as well as the finiteness of human existence, the omnipotence of God’s power, the protection of sinners by the prayers of the Mother of God.

There are some parallels between the cantata and requiem genre, primarily in the content of the work, in the usage of polyphonic style, in some allusions in the melody. There is a leitmotif in the composition of the work. The structure has features of symmetry in the arrangement of solo and solo-choir parts. Most of the parts are written for choir. The tonal plan grows out of the musical material of the first part of the composition. The genre orientation of the thematic material is diverse: ornamented oriental melodies, romance lyrics, recitative themes, spiritual songs intonations and Christmas carols. Polyphony prevails in terms of musical material presentation, which allows us to speak of a large polyphonic form at the macro level of the work.

Key words

Sh. Chalaev, Cantata “The Incomprehensible God”, sacred concert music, genre interaction, synthesis of religious traditions.

For citation

Kushnir O. Cantata “The Incomprehensible God” by Shirvani Chalaev: Towards the problem of artistic and religious conceptual idea // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2022. No. 4. Pp. 109-119.