Music Appreciation: Salvation Is Created by Pavel Tschesnokoff

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We’re back visiting the Russians, this time with Pavel Tschesnokoff (or Chesnokov).

Photo of Suzdal, The Kremlin, Church

Suzdal, The Kremlin, Church
photo by Mariss
(CC0 license)

He was a bit older than Shostakovich, living from 1877 to 1944.  You may remember from my post on Festive Overture that there were restrictions on what artists and musicians could do during that time in Russia.  Tschesnokoff also faced those limitations. Sadly, he never heard Salvation Is Created (Spaseniye Sodelal) performed, but it lives on as a staple of the choral (and band) repertoire.

The lyrics are simple and short.  The English translation is as follows: “Salvation is created, in midst of the earth, O God, O our God. Alleluia.” (source: CPDL.org).

For this piece, I want you to just close your eyes and listen. Don’t even think.  Absorb the sound.  We can talk about theory after you’ve listened to it once.

This piece is not complicated.  But it illustrates that simple can be amazingly beautiful.  There are no “weird” chords, no crazy clashes like in Three Shanties, no funky time signatures.  It was written for a six-part choir, with four male parts and two female parts (soprano, alto, tenor 1, tenor 2, bass 1, bass 2, commonly referred to as SATTBB).

The form of the piece is also straightforward.  A song’s form is like a blueprint or road map.  We map out those sections using letters (A,B,C, etc.) and additional symbols (A’, B”, C’ etc.)  The symbols give information as to whether something has changed.  Salvation Is Created is A-B-coda-A-B-coda’ (a coda is basically a musical “tag” at the end of a piece or section).  Here are the landmarks:

A: Beginning
B: 0:55
coda: 1:34
A: 1:53
B: 2:32
coda’: 3:11

Tschesnokoff has the A sections in B minor, with the B sections in D major.  The first coda ends in B minor, leading us easily back to the A section.  The second coda finishes on a satisfying D major chord.  These two keys are relative keys, meaning that they share a key signature – in this case, two sharps (F♯ and C♯).

What makes this piece so beautiful?  It’s hard to say.  The long melodic lines certainly play a part, as do the chord progressions.  The change between the end of the A section and the beginning of the B section gives me chills.  When good sopranos sing that D up to the high A, it just soars.

My first introduction to this piece was in band – college, I think.  There are a few minor changes for the band version (i.e. key is in C minor and E♭ major).  However, it’s just as effective with instruments as it is with voices.

 

(Shameless plug: I arranged this piece for my clarinet choir – have a listen or purchase the sheet music)

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12 thoughts on “Music Appreciation: Salvation Is Created by Pavel Tschesnokoff

  1. god, I want to know more. Is there some prior knowledge to writing music that I should know? I mean, I’m thinking this must be divinely inspired. Yet, he was able to get it all down on paper for the world to hear. I wonder if the ideas behind a salvation created were new back then or was he simply putting to music some common place idea.
    In any event, I can research this on my own; but thanks, thanks for, although you may not know it, furthering my on little investigation into what can save us. Peace and God’s blessings, David

  2. Good questions. I’m thinking that the ideas might not have been new, but he was writing during some tough times in the Soviet era. From what I’ve read, this was the last piece (or one of the last pieces) of church music he wrote. I’d guess that all of what was going on at the time influenced the creation of this piece, and we certainly reap the benefit as we have this wonderful piece that we can still enjoy a hundred years later.

    It’s hard to answer your question about prior knowledge and writing music. Certainly there have been people who are able to write music without having any formal music training or putting anything down on paper. I’d argue that it helps to have at least some basic musical knowledge (notes, rhythms, key signatures, etc.), but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Does that answer your question at all? If not, please feel free to write again.

  3. Thanks for a great post. I discovered “Salvation is Created” in 1977 as a member of the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners. To this day, it is the band’s warm-up chorale, and much, much more. The current band director, Dr. Ken Bodiford, is a JSU alum and has a deep love for the band’s traditions and has incorporated several of those in marching shows over the years. For those who aren’t familiar with the Marching Southerners, the band is far closer in style and approach to a drum and bugle corps than to most college marching bands. This year’s show is entitled “Salvation is Created: A Journey from Darkness to Light.” Here’s a link to the show announcement on the band’s homepage. http://marchingsoutherners.org/showAnnouncement/2014Salvation.php

    Here is a link to video of the September 16 performance at the Calhoun County marching band exhibition. Note: the show is not complete. The performance includes the 1st, 2nd, and final movements. The 3rd movement will be added soon. There’s a lot of getting set and that sort of thing at the start of the video. The actual performance begins at about the 1:00 point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe-sH-OtD2U&feature=youtu.be

    • Great concept for a show! I wasn’t familiar with JSU (Big Ten girl myself 🙂 ), so I thank you for sharing the link. I really enjoyed the show so far – excellent band! I’ll keep them on my radar and want to watch some of the other videos that are up.

      “Salvation Is Created” is such a moving piece, and has been one of my favorites for quite a while now. Thanks for stopping by!

        • Not a pest at all! Thank you for sending the link. I finally got a chance to sit down and give it a proper viewing, and thought it was a great performance. (My husband asked me to note that he liked it as well 🙂 ) I especially liked how the various tunes weaved in and out of each other. I’m amazed at the size of the group – that’s quite an army of xylophones!

          My HS marching band had about 30 people, so I’m always fascinated by the large bands. Didn’t participate in college, as OSU is brass only and I play clarinet, but loved watching them (and I’m reminded that I’ve been neglectful in watching any of their shows this year…)

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