Demestvennoe Singing

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Demestvennoe Singing


(from the Late Greek domestikos; Russian demestik, director of a choir and its soloist in Byzantium), a style of Old Russian church singing. It was widespread from the mid-15th through the 17th century.

The earliest transcriptions of demestvennoe melodies, accomplished with the aid of signs or a special demestvennoe notation, date back to the 1570’s. During the 17th century three- and four-voice demestvennoe part-singing also appeared. The melodies of demestvennoe singing was marked by freshness of intonation, flexibility, and flowery pattern, and in this respect it resembled the lyric folk song. Demestvennoe singing was used in the divine service on religious holidays and also on ceremonial occasions (wedding ceremonies and greetings to the tsar, for example). The previously commonly accepted idea that demestvennoe singing had originally been used in the home arose as a result of the explanation of the derivation of its name from the Latin domesticus (“domestic”), but this theory is now disputed.


Razumovskii, D. V. Tserkovnoe penie v Rossii, part 3. Moscow, 1869.
Stasov, V. V. “Zametki o demestvennom i troestrochnom penii.” Sobr. soch., vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1894.
Uspenskii, N. Drevnerusskoe pevcheskoe iskusstvo. Moscow, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.