Johann Von Gardner (1898-1984)
Ivan Alekseyevich Gardner (1898-1984), known in the West as Johann von Gardner, was a unique and multi-faceted Russian musician and scholar, whose entire life, in one way or another, centered around Orthodox church music, Gardner was compelled to leave his homeland in 1920, living thereafter in Serbia (Yugoslavia), the Holy Land, Austria, and Germany. As a researcher and author, he single-handedly carried the torch of scholarship in the field of Russian Orthodox liturgical music, at a time his compatriots in the Soviet Union were prevented from doing so by the Communist regime. He authored a major two-volume history of Russian church singing (the first part of which is available in English translation) as well as nearly one hundred articles and monographs. In his writings he sought to continue, through historical investigation and scholarly argument, the movement initiated at the Moscow Synodal School of Church Singing—the attempt to return Russian liturgical music to its traditional Orthodox roots from which it had strayed in the 18th and 19th centuries under Western European influence.
Although Gardner’s contribution to this process as a composer is lesser-known, he wrote over 100 sacred liturgical choral works, almost all of them based on authentic Znamenny, Demestvenny, Kievan and other chants. In his compositions he was in every respect a follower of the best traditions of the “new Russian choral school”—Kastalsky, Gretchaninoff, Chesnokov, Rachmaninoff—using the full coloristic resources of the mixed choir in a rich palette of “choral orchestration.” Like many of the works of the Moscow School, Gardner’s compositionas and chant arrangements for the most part lay outside the capabilities of Russian émigré choirs, and thus remained unsung until recently. A fresh consideration of his works reveals Gardner to be an important composer whose creative legacy merits being incorporated into the corpus of the Russian sacred choral repertoire.