Salvation is Created

"Salvation is Created" is a choral work composed by Pavel Tchesnokov in 1912. It was one of the very last sacred works he composed before he was forced to turn to secular arts by the oppressive Soviet Union. Although he never heard his own composition performed, his children had the opportunity years following his death. "Salvation is Created" was originally published in 1913 by J. Fischer and Bro. but its popularity drove editors to produce many different versions in both Russian and English. Scored for either six or eight voices (SATTBB or SSAATTBB), the work is a communion hymn based on a Kievan syndonal chant melody and Psalm 74. The original Russian text is as follows:
*Russian Script: "Cпасение coдeлaл еси посреде земли, Боже. Аллилуия".
*Phonetic Alphabet: "Spaséñiye, sodélal yesí posredé ziemlí, Bózhe. Allilúiya".
*English: "Salvation is created in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia".::(Tchesnokov 2002)

The keys of B minor and D major are the work’s primary key centers, and it is cast in AA’ or two part strophic form.

ymphonic wind arrangement

Although this arrangement was almost an exact transcription of Tchesnokov’s original choral work, Bruce Houseknecht transposed it up a half step to C minor and E flat major in order to accommodate the register of the symphonic wind ensemble. He also rewrote the work using a 4/4 meter rather than cut time to make phrases more evident and the notation much easier to read. In measures 27 and 67 of the vocal setting, Tchesnokov utilizes a bar of 1/2 time to emphasize the text changing to “in the midst.” Up until then, the phrase “Salvation is created” is repeated. Houseknecht’s arrangement eliminates the meter change entirely. Instead he uses an eighth rest to maintain Tchesnokov’s intent to emphasize the new phrases beginning in measures 14 and 35. Other than these few changes, Houseknecht does not deviate from the original work.

Although the work is cast in a two part strophic form, each section can be broken down into an “A-B-coda” form. The A section, measures 1 through 17 of the original score and 1 through 9 of the wind arrangement, is characterized by two soft, identical phrases in a minor key. In choral work, Tchesnokov creates contrast between the two phrases through the voicing. The first phrase is sung by the bass and tenor voices while the soprano and alto voices carry the second phrase. To maintain the change in timbre in his transcription, Houseknecht scores the first phrase for 2 B-flat clarinets, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, string bass, E-flat contrabass clarinet, tuba, and solo horn. 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 alto saxophones, and 3 cornets are used in the second phrase to answer the first phrase in an antiphonal style.

Section B (measures 18 through 35 of the Tchesnokov and 10 through 18 of the Houseknecht arrangement), on the other hand, is a forte tutti section characterized by thick texture in the relative major of the previous tonal center. Tchesnokov creates stark contrasts between sections A and B with this tonal shift and further emphasizes it with a dynamic shift. Although In the band arrangement, Houseknecht strengthens their dissimilarities with thicker texture (all voices play), the timpani are used to tie the two parts together by playing an A flat, starting at piano in the last measure of the first section and crescendoing to an E flat on the down beat of the second section. The last few bars of this section relaxes and decrescendos to set up for the tag or short coda section (measures 36 through 41 of the vocal score and 19 through 21 of the band arrangement). This section can be characterized as a soft retreat back to the style of section A.

In the original choral work, Tchesnokov then repeats the exact same pitches and rhythms as if there was a da capo, but the text of this half contains the word “Alleluia” all the way through the rest of the piece. Since a change in text cannot be portrayed in an instrumental work, Houseknecht revoices the A section to make the repeat more interesting. The low brass section carries the first phrase while the high brass and woodwinds answer in the second phrase. In the E flat major, tutti section (measures 31 through 39) and the coda (measures 40 through 42), he also revoices chords in the woodwinds to reinforce the finality of cadences.

Performance practice

In order to successfully perform the wind arrangement of "Salvation is Created" as Tchesnokov would have intended, the conductor must first study the score side by side with the choral score. Even more importantly he must understand Tchesnokov’s view on phrasing and breathing. In his book The Choir and How to Direct it, Tchesnokov explains his beliefs on stagger breathing. He thought that sacred works should have the illusion of constant sound, meaning the ensemble should not take breaths together at the end of phrases. Instead they should stagger breathe throughout the piece. To stay true to Tchesnokov’s intent of constant sound, the wind ensemble should also stagger breathe.

This points out a deficiency in Houseknecht’s ability to preserve Tchesnokov’s intentions. In measures 13 and 39, the entire ensemble rests on the AND of beat one except for the timpani who rolls through it on a G. The conductor has the responsibility to decide whether he will conduct "Salvation is Created" by Tchesnokov or "Salvation is Created" by Houseknecht.

The scholarly conductor must also read Psalms 74 to understand what persuaded Tchesnokov to write this piece. In verses 1 through 11, the psalmist questions God in a bitter complaint about His seeming disregard for His chosen people. The Israelites are facing utter defeat, and their foes have defiled their land and their worship place. The psalmist asks why God allows it to continue. Yet in verses 12 through 17, there is a stark contrast in mood and connotation of the psalmist’s words. He begins worshiping God and praising Him for his sovereignty. But the psalm ends in the mood that it began in, pleading for God not to “ignore the clamor of [His] adversaries.”

The form of Tchesnokov’s "Salvation is Created" is a musical photograph of the structure of Psalms 74. It starts in a dark and soft minor key which parallels the psalmist’s apparent loss of hope. The music then suddenly shifts to the relative major key while utilizing majestic volumes and tutti orchestration which is picturesque of the mood change in verse 12. In the coda section, the mood falls back to the style of the first section just as the praise returns to tears in verse 18. These similarities should not be overlooked.

The phrases should be smooth and connected throughout the piece. The A and coda sections should be dark and mysterious while the B section is a little brighter and majestic. Dynamics are also critical to the performance of this piece. The conductor should make sure to pay close attention to the swell in volume indicated in measures 1 and 2 and then again in measures 5 and 6 of the Houseknecht arrangement, and to the decrescendos in measure 9 and 16. These should be treated as smorzandos, and the sound should die away to nothing. Lastly the climax is on beat 3 of measure 13 so it is pertinent that the conductor makes sure the ensemble crescendos to it beginning at the downbeat of measure 10.

References

* Rommereim, J. C. "'The Choir and How to Direct It:' Pavel Chesnokov's magnum opus." CHORAL JOURNAL, Official Publication of the American Choral Directors Association XXXVIII, no. 7 (1998): 29-42.
* Tchesnokov, Pavel. "Salvation is Created (Pavel Tchesnokov)." Choral Public Domain Library. Edited by Rafael Ornes. March 19, 2002. http://wso.williams.edu/cpdl/sheet/tsch-sal.pdf (accessed April 8, 2008).


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