This was one of the last sacred choral works produced by Pavel Chesnokov before the Soviet suppression of Christianity.
It never ceases to amaze us when a choral group can produce such rich reverberation that even laptop speakers shake. That was the first thing that stood out in the Te Deum Choir’s 2015 rendition of “Salvation Is Created” by Pavel Chesnokov. The second, of course, were the high notes, which we are convinced could break glass.
It was by complete chance that we came across the works of Chesnokov, but we quickly became lifelong fans. A prolific composer from the early 20th century, Chesnokov had composed over 400 sacred choral works by his 30th birthday.
His reputation as a prestigious choral conductor allowed him to lead the Russian Choral society and garnered him a position at the famed Moscow Conservatory. Pavel also served as choirmaster at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The idea of such beautiful hymns performed in such a massive church is almost enough to make one envious.
This proliferation was unfortunately cut short, as the Russian Revolution stymied further production of sacred art. Chesnokov’s output was never the same under Communist rule, with only 100 pieces credited in the latter half of his life. Eventually, in 1931, the Communists destroyed the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which so disturbed Chesnokov that he never composed again.
Today, Chesnokov’s catalogue of sacred music is celebrated throughout Christendom. Of this large body of work, “Salvation Is Created” is probably the most well known. In one of life’s great ironies, however, Chesnokov never heard the work in concert. Because it was completed just as the Communist suppression of Christianity began, it was never performed in Russia during his lifetime.
As a Communion hymn, “Salvation Is Created” can only be described as transcendent. Chesnokov’s use of dynamics is masterful in creating an atmosphere of divine mystery. It is more akin to chant than a hymn, as the simple lyrics repeat in each verse. The lyrics come from Psalm 74.