Pavel Chesnokov: Salvation is Created
Known for his some 500 choral works composed during his career, Russian composer Pavel Chesnokov is perhaps best-known for his sacred choral work Salvation is Created. Composed in 1912 as the fifth of his Ten Communion Hymns, Salvation is Created was one of the composer’s last sacred works before he was forced by the Soviet government to write secular music. Due to this suppression of Christianity from the Soviet government, Chesnokov never got to hear this work performed during his lifetime, although his children did many years after his passing.
After being first published in 1913, the popularity of the work drove publishing companies to create different versions both in Russian and English. The work remains a staple in the choral world.
Chesnokov takes but one line from Psalm 74:
Salvation is created, in the midst of the earth, O God, O our God. Alleluia.
Scored for six unaccompanied voices, Cheskonov makes a feature of lower voices by using the set up – SATTBB. The lower voices start the piece, which creates a haunting atmosphere. Chesnokov starts Salvation is Created in B minor and modulates to D major later on in the piece. After the basses finish their opening pronouncing of the theme, the upper voices enter an octave higher which creates a widespread sound across all six parts.
As more voices join, the music becomes louder until the flourish of the first climax is heard c.1.5 minutes in. When the basses drop out and leave the upper voices to present the theme, there is a sudden tug at your ears to focus upwards. This makes it even more intense when the basses come back into the mix later on. The radiant sopranos shine on top of the rumbling basses as Chesnokov’s long phrases unravel over the course of the work.
The slightly unexpected change to D major for the second theme offers a more joyous take on the simple lyrics. The slow tempo throughout, however, does keep the mysterious atmosphere very much at the forefront of the piece. A shift back to the home key of B minor reinstates the first theme once more before the music heads into the coda. As the voices begin to thin and the dynamic comes right down, Salvation is Created finishes on the final ‘Alleluia’.
Ⓒ Alex Burns