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4th International Festival “An Epoch in Miniature. In Search of a New Harmony: From the Middle Ages to the Modern Era” at STOU

From February 20–March 1, 2024, STOU hosted the 4th International Festival “An Epoch in Miniature. In Search of a New Harmony: From the Middle Ages to the Modern Era”. This year, the festival was dedicated to the memory of the 430th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–1594), one of the greatest composers of the 16th century, a representative of the Roman school of music, and a master of choral polyphony, and his era.

On February 20, the festival kicked off with the opening of the exhibition “An Epoch in Miniature: The Quest for Harmony at the Turn of the Ages”. In the foyer of the main building of STOU, the curator of the exhibition, Svetlana V. Kovalevskaia [ru], Senior Lecturer of the Department of History and Theory of Christian Art at STOU and Senior Lecturer of the Department of History and Theory of Art at the Surikov Moscow State Art Institute, presented the concept of the exhibition project to the guests.

The exhibition aims to give a broad panorama of the era in which Palestrina lived and worked. The exhibition tells the story of late Renaissance and Mannerist Rome, as well as of a changed world in the age of the great geographical discoveries.

The centerpieces of the exhibition are two manuscripts from the collections of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, “On Divine Proportion” by Luca Pacioli and “The Voyage of Magellan” by Antonio Pigafetta. The first manuscript is a Renaissance treatise where number is an expression of the rational connection between God, the world, and man. The treatise is illustrated with drawings by Leonardo da Vinci depicting the construction of regular polygons and polyhedra. The second manuscript is the diary of Antonio Pigafetta, a participant in the first circumnavigation of the globe, the Magellan expedition. The text of the diary is the main source of information about this voyage; the manuscript is illustrated with maps of the places the expedition visited. Free guided tours of the exhibition were organized for everyone.

The interview with Svetlana Kovalevskaia on the idea of the exhibition can be viewed here [ru].

After the opening of the exhibition, the guests were invited to the Conciliar Chamber for the formal opening ceremony. Fr. Konstantin Polskov [ru], Vice-Rector for Academic and International Affairs at STOU, gave a welcoming speech. The guests and participants were also greeted from Milan by the co-organizer of the festival, Vice-Prefect and Doctor of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Mons. Francesco Braschi.

The concert part of the festival began with a short musical lecture by O. N. Sokolova, Deputy Dean of Studies of the STOU Faculty of Church Singing, on the life and works of Palestrina. In the concert program, the STOU Chamber Choir (directed by Priest Aleksei Zaitsev), the Choir of the STOU Faculty of Church Singing (directed by E. E. Gatovskaia), and the Chamber Choir of the Gnessin School of Music (directed by P. A. Savinkov) performed polyphonic works by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, as well as other composers of his era, such as Thomás Luis da Victoria, Felice Anerio, and Antonio Vivaldi.

The festival featured two academic conferences: one on “Renaissance Polyphony: Music and Spatial Arts”, on February 21, and one on “Theology and Philosophy of the Renaissance: Back to a New Harmony”, on February 22. Two educational lectures likewise took place during the festival: “Palestrina, Lasso and the Problem of Style in 16th-Century Music” by Dr. L. V. Kirillina, Professor of the Department of Foreign Music History at the Moscow State Conservatory (February 21), and “Mannerist Architecture: Between Strict Norm and Free Fantasy” by Dr. E. A. Efimova, Associate Professor of the Department of General History of Art at Moscow State University (February 26).

On February 27, one of the key events of the festival was the presentation of two manuscripts from the collection of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana: “The Voyage of Magellan” by Pigafetta and “On Divine Proportion” by Pacioli. The speakers were Mons. Francesco Braschi, who brought precious facsimile editions of the above manuscripts to Moscow on the occasion of the festival, and Alessandro Rovetta, Professor of Museology, Art History and Restoration at the Catholic University of Milan. You can watch a recording of the presentation here.

On March 1, the international festival “Epoch in Miniature” wrapped up with the concert program “Music of the Sistine Chapel”. Music by Palestrina and other 16th/17th-century composers was performed by the vocal ensemble INTRADA directed by Ekaterina Antonenko (choirmaster Gleb Kardasevich).

STOU’s International Projects Department warmly thanks the co-organizers of the festival, the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Milan, Italy) and the Conciliar Chamber Cultural and Educational Center, and also expresses its gratitude to the Italian Embassy in Moscow for supporting the festival, which was attended by about 1200 people in total.