Salvation Is Created – Pavel Tschesnokoff

We’re back visiting the Russians, this time with Pavel Tschesnokoff (or Chesnokov).  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.  Kansas State University has a teaching unit on this piece that has more information.

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 sharp and C sharp).

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-flat major).  However, it’s just as effective with instruments as it is with voices.

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4 thoughts on “Salvation Is Created – 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.

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