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Maksym Berezovsky

Maksym Berezovsky

Ukrainian composer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Ukrainian composer
Countries Ukraine
Occupations Composer Opera singer
Gender male
Birth 27 October 1745 (Hlukhiv)
Death 2 April 1777 (Saint Petersburg)
Notable Works Demofonte
The details

Maksym Sozontovych Berezovsky (Ukrainian: Максим Созонтович Березовський) (c.27 October 1745 –2 April 1777) was a Ukrainian composer, opera singer, and violinist.
Berezovsky was the first Ukrainian composer to be recognized throughout Europe and the first to compose an opera, symphony, and violin sonata. His most popular works are his sacred choral pieces written for the Orthodox Church. Much of his work has been lost; only three of the 18 known choral concertos have been found. Dmitry Bortniansky was thought to be the first Ukrainian symphonic composer until the discovery in 2002 of Berezovsky's Symphony in C by Steven Fox in the Vatican archives, composed around 1770–1772.

Early life

Not much is known about Berezovsky’s biography. His life story was reconstructed in a short novel written in 1840 by Nestor Kukolnik and a play by Peter Smirnov staged at the Alexandrine Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Many particulars from these works of fiction had been accepted as fact, but have since been proven inaccurate.

Some accounts speculate that Berezovsky was born on October 27, 1745 in Hlukhiv, and studied at the Kiev Mohyla Academy. However, no hard evidence exists for this information, and his name is missing from the annals of the Academy. Since Hlukhiv was the only other music school training singers for the Imperial Court Choir, it is likely that he did spend at least some of his childhood there. Today there is a monument to Maksym Berezovsky in Hlukhiv, which is believed to be his birthplace.


On June 29, 1758 he was accepted as a singer into the Prince Peter Fedorovych capella in Oranienbaum (now known as Lomonosov), near Saint Petersburg. Berezovsky participated in Italian operas and his name appears in printed librettos of the operas Alessandro nell'Indie by Francesco Araja and La Semiramide riconosciuta by Vincenzo Manfredini given in Oranienbaum in 1759 and 1760.

In 1762, he became a singer of the Italian Capella of the Saint Petersburg Imperial palace, which was the palace chapel choir. Here he studied under singer N. Garani and Capella director F. Zoppis and likely under composers Vincenzo Manfredini and Baldassare Galuppi. He continued as court musician and composer for the majority of the 1760s.

In 1763, Berezovsky wed Franzina Uberscher (also translated as Francisca Iberchere), a graduate of the Oranienbaum theatrical school. Not much is known about their life together. When he died in 1777, the composer's government funeral allowance was given to court singer J. Timchenko. This implies that Berezovsky was either separated or widowed from his wife during his final days, since this allowance would normally be given to the wife of the deceased.

Berezovsky was sent to Italy in the spring of 1769 to train with renowned teacher padre Giovanni Battista Martini at the Bologna Philharmonic Academy, where he graduated with distinction. Along with fellow graduate Josef Mysliveček, Berezowsky wrote an exam to compose a polyphonic work on a given theme. This was a similar exam to that given to fellow alumnus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart several months earlier, from which both graduated with distinction. Berezovsky's piece for four voices is still kept in the Academy’s archives. On May 15, 1771 he became a member of the Accademia Filarmonica.

Later years

His opera Demofonte to the Italian libretto by Pietro Metastasio was staged in Livorno, Italy, and premiered in February 1773.

Berezovsky returned to Saint Petersburg in October 1773 (early biographies indicate that he returned in 1775). According to archival discoveries in the late 20th century, Berezovsky was appointed a staff member of the imperial theatres and capellmeister of the Royal court capella eight months later. This was a high ranking position for a musician and contradicts the notion that Berezovsky’s talent was not appreciated upon his return to Saint Petersburg. Some sources state that he committed suicide as a result of depression for not being accepted upon his return to Saint Petersburg. His first biographer, Eugene Bolkhovitinov, made this assertion in 1804 based on testimonials of those who knew Berezovsky. Marina Ritzarev, a contemporary scholar, asserts that he did not commit suicide but rather likely caught a sudden fever resulting in his death after developing some psychic disease. He died in Saint Petersburg on March 24 (April 2, N.S.), 1777.

Cultural influence

Andrei Tarkovsky's 1983 film Nostalghia is "a commentary on exile as told through Berezovsky's life".

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