How to Listen to the Ethereal “Salvation Is Created” by Tschesnokoff
It’s possible that composer Pavel Tschesnokoff never heard his glorious choral piece, “Salvation Is Created (Spaseniye Sodelal),” get publicly performed.
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
Theme A: 1:53
Theme B: 2:32
Somber and haunting
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 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!
I arranged this for clarinet choir and was honored that N.I.C.E performed it as a virtual concert! Have a listen below. Or purchase the sheet music)