2013-04-14 Notes from the Bench

“Salvation is Created” by Pavel Grigorievich Tschesnokoff
A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James Gerber, Music Associate

Salvation is Created is a communion hymn based on a Russian chant melody with the text taken from Psalm 74, is among Pavel Grigorievich Tschesnokoff’s best-known works, and is a staple of chorale literature.  This work has also been transcribed for instrumental ensembles.  Salvation is Created was written in the style of a chorale with pleasant chord progressions and melodic lines that are long-flowing and legato.  It is scored for six voice parts: two bass parts, two tenor, alto, and soprano.  The work is not complicated; it does not contain strange harmonies or clashing dissonances.  The beautiful harmonies and the low pitches of the basso-profundo parts are characteristics of Russian choral music. Salvation is Created is one of the last sacred choral works written by Tschesnokoff and he may never have ever heard this work performed.

Pavel Grigorievich Tschesnokoff (1877 – 1944) is a Russian composer, choral conductor, and teacher known for his many choral compositions.  The name “Tschesnokoff” has been transliterated from the Russian Cyrillic script to the Latin alphabet in a variety of ways:  ChesnokovTschesnokoff, TchesnokovTchesnokoff and Chesnokoff.  Tschesnokoff studied both vocal and instrumental music at the Moscow Conservatory, one of the most prestigious institutions in Russia.  In 1920, he earned a staff position at the Moscow Conservatory where he founded a choral conducting program and taught until his death.

Tschesnokoff was recognized as a great conductor and choirmaster from an early age.  During the final days of the Russian Empire, Tschesnokoff was the choirmaster for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.  His choral works are rooted in the liturgical style of the Russian Orthodox Church and he wrote 400 sacred choral works before he reached the age of thirty.  Following the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union in Russia, the communist authorities in power suppressed all religion and the production of all sacred art was forbidden.  Tschesnokoff, fearing the severe punishments under the Soviet regime, continued to compose andwrote secular choral music instead, completing 100 additional works.  He also conducted various secular choirs such as the Moscow Academy Choir and Bolshoi Theatre Choir.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior, beloved by Tschesnokoff, was destroyed by the Soviets in 1933 to clear the land for the construction of the Palace of the Soviets, a building to house the Soviet authorities and promote the regime.  Devastated by the Cathedral’s destruction, he ceased composing for the remainder of his life.  Construction of the Palace was initiated in 1937, but halted during World War II and never completed due to engineering problems.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cathedral was reconstructed, replicating the original architectural style at its original location.

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