Magnificent Prayer Composed By Tchaikovsky, Sung By Incredibly Talented Russian Choir

Composed by Tchaikovsky, this unbelievably beautiful prayer inspired a huge body of new, creative church music in Russia

This article from our archives was first published on RI in September 2018

Tschaikovsky, the world-wide famous composer, wrote this unbelievably beautiful Cherubic hymn, which is sung during the most reverent part of the Divine Liturgy.

Performed by State Symphony Capella of Russia (previously called the The USSR Ministry Of Culture Chamber), conducted by Valery Polyansky, this unbelievable performance with its tremulous beauty and fluidity transports the listener into a prayerful, spiritual realm. 

Tchaikovsky's Hymn of the Cherubim was a part of his entire setting of the Divine Liturgy--the first unified musical cycle of the liturgy. 

Tchaikovsky, though known largely for his classical compositions (symphonies, concertos and ballets) had a profound love and appreciation for the music of the Russian Church. He 

In 1877, he wrote to his friend and patroness Nadezhda von Meck:

For me [the church] still possesses much poetical charm. I very often attend the services. I consider the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom one of the greatest productions of art. If we follow the service very carefully, and enter into the meaning of every ceremony, it is impossible not to be profoundly moved by the liturgy of our own Orthodox Church... to be startled from one's trance by a burst from the choir; to be carried away by the poetry of this music; to be thrilled when... the words ring out, 'Praise the name of the Lord!' – all this is infinitely precious to me! One of my deepest joys![4]

An April 1878, he wrote again to von Meck of his interest in composing music for the liturgy.

A vast and untrodden field of activity lies open to composers here. I appreciate certain merits in BortnianskyBerezovsky and others; but how little their music is in keeping with... the whole spirit of Orthodox liturgy! ... It is not improbable that I shall decide to set the entire liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I shall arrange all this by July.[5]

The composition of the liturgy took place that the same year. Though initially it was censured, the Church allowed the liturgy to be performed next year. Inspired by the freedom signified by this new beautiful sacred music, other secular composers soon followed Tchaikovsky's example.[9] 

Tchaikovsky's Divine Liturgy was the beginning of an amazing period of inspiration and creativity in church music, which included a whole generation of brilliant Russian composers of their own settings of the liturgy, including Arkhangelsky, Chesnokov, Gretchaninov, Ippolitov-Ivanov, and Rachmaninoff.[3][22]

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