How to Listen to the Ethereal “Salvation Is Created” by Tschesnokoff

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It’s possible that composer Pavel Tschesnokoff never heard his glorious choral piece, “Salvation Is Created (Spaseniye Sodelal),” get publicly performed.

Photo of Suzdal, The Kremlin, Church

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

Tschesnokoff composed the piece in 1912, but the Russian Revolution of 1917 lead to a period of strong anti-religious sentiment in the Soviet Union. Public displays of religious material were banned, churches were demolished or expropriated, and bishops and priests were executed.

Fortunately for the music world, Tschesnokoff’s masterwork survived.

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).

First, just close your eyes and listen. Don’t even think. Absorb the sound.  We’ll discuss the piece after you’ve listened to it once.

 

Simple Is Beautiful

“Salvation Is Created” illustrates that music doesn’t have to be complex to be good. There are no “weird” chords, no crazy clashes like in Three Shanties, no funky time signatures. It was written for  six-part unaccompanied choir, with four male parts and two female parts (soprano, alto, tenor 1, tenor 2, bass 1, bass 2, commonly referred to as SATTBB).

This piece’s form (like a blueprint or roadmap) is also simple. Two primary themes, followed by a coda. The two themes are repeated, followed by a modified coda (the modification is designated with an apostrophe).

Here are the landmarks:

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

The men start the piece, somberly and a bit hauntingly, in B minor. Then the women repeat the phrase, one octave higher. The basses drop out, focusing our attention upward.Then the clouds part, the sun shines in, and we hear the radiant tones of the sopranos singing praise Click To Tweet

Then the clouds part, the sun shines in, and we hear the radiant tones of the sopranos singing praise in a more joyous-sounding D major (Theme B). Listen for 1:09, where an unexpected chord change gives just a bit more oomph to the piece. The theme tapers down toward the first coda, where we transition back to B minor, anticipating the second statement of Theme A.

Theme A and B repeat (because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to hear that again!) If you missed the “oomph” chord the first time, you can listen for it again at 2:46. This time the coda keeps us in D major, finishing the piece with quiet optimism.

What makes this piece so amazing?  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. Simply beautiful.

I do want to put in a plug for another recording as well. The group is excellent, and listen to that bass! Wow! Thanks to Andy Pease’s post for highlighting this version.

My first introduction to this piece was in college band. 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. Enjoy!

(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 “How to Listen to the Ethereal “Salvation Is Created” by 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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