Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

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TCHAIKOVSKY, Peter (1840-1893) — Tchaikovsky's position among Russian choral composers was nothing short of seminal. Widely successful in the realm of secular music, Tchaikovsky influenced Russian Orthodox church music of his time in ways that cannot be underestimated. When he composed his Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in 1878, the Imperial Chapel's censorship of church music was severely hampering the willingness of the rising school of Russian nationalist composers to write for the church. Tchaikovsky's Liturgy was promptly banned by the Director of the Imperial Chapel, Nikolai Bakhmetev, an action that in turn led Tchaikovsky's publisher, Jurgenson, to sue. The Russian Senate's ruling in favor of Tchaikovsky and Jurgenson broke the grip of censorship and opened the possibility for successive generations of Russian composers to compose sacred choral works without subjecting them to bureaucratic review. Although stylistically Tchaikovsky's music for the Liturgy was not in any way radical or innovative, the very fact that he composed new, freely invented music for most of the liturgical components shaped the approach taken by nearly every composer who subsequently undertook to write musical settings of this service, most notably, Gretchaninoff, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Chesnokov, and Rachmaninoff.

A few years after the Liturgy, in 1882, Tchaikovsky again broke new ground with his All-Night Vigil, op. 52, becoming the first major Russian composer to draw upon the traditional unison chants of the Russian Orthodox Church as the basis for composing an entire liturgical cycle. Again, Tchaikovsky's polyphonic treatment of the pre-existing chant material was in no way extraordinary, but his recognition of this long-neglected wellspring of national Russian melos made a mark. It is hardly coincidental that more than 30 years later, Sergei Rachmaninoff used many of the very same chant melodies in his monumental All-Night Vigil. op. 37. 

After his two major liturgical cycles, Tchaikovsky, encouraged by Emperor Alexander III himself to write more sacred music, produced ten more liturgical choruses in which he pioneered some additional compositional and stylistic traits that would come to characterize the "new Russian choral school" of the early twentieth century: rich, and colorful choral textures with divisi, the invention of quasi-chant melodies, and the use of chant-like motives in melodic part-writing.

By virtue of his stature as a Russian musician, Tchaikovsky was contributed to the course of Russian church music in other ways. In the years between his Liturgy and Vigil, he edited the complete sacred choral works of Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825) for Jurgenson's Publishing House. He compiled A Concise Textbook of Harmony Intended to Facilitate the Reading of Sacred Musical Works in Russia (1875). And, perhaps most significantly, as a member of the Supervisory Council of the Moscow Synodal School of Church Singing, he secured the appointments of his students, the choral conductor Vasily Orlov (1858-1907) and the composer Alexander Kastalsky (1856-1926), to faculty positions at that institution. Together with the musicologist Stepan Smolensky (1848-1909), Orlov and Kastalsky, following Tchaikovsky's precepts, would shape the Moscow Synodal School and its Choir into a crucible for the creation and nurturing of one of the largest and substantive bodies of sacred choral music in modern times. 

Tchaikovsky's contributions to secular choral repertoire cannot be overlooked, either. In addition to the extensive and vivid use of choruses in his numerous operas, he composed several occasional cantatas (the most prominent of which is Moscow, written in 1883 for the coronation of Alexander III), and several part songs for mixed, women's, and men's choir.

Ta-anv_search Peter Tchaikovsky All-Night Vigil ('Vespers')
Vsenoshchnoye Bdeniye

Peter Tchaikovsky

Mixed

Church Slavonic

16

244

Ta-ANV

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Ta-dl_search Peter Tchaikovsky Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
Liturgiya Sv. Ioanna Zlatousta

Peter Tchaikovsky

Mixed

Church Slavonic

15

84

Ta-DL

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M-pt_search Peter Tchaikovsky The Complete Sacred Choral Works
Polnoye sobraniye duhovno-muzïkal'nïh proizvedeniy

Peter Tchaikovsky

Church Slavonic

40

596

M-PT

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Ta032_search Peter Tchaikovsky Great Doxology, The
Velikoye slavosloviye

Peter Tchaikovsky

Znamenny Chant

SATB

Church Slavonic

Ta032

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Ta026_search Peter Tchaikovsky Having Beheld the Resurrection
Voskreseniye Hristovo

Peter Tchaikovsky

Russian “Greek” Chant

SATB

Church Slavonic

Ta026

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Ta011_search Peter Tchaikovsky It Is Truly Fitting
Dostoyno yest'

Peter Tchaikovsky

SATB

Church Slavonic

Ta011

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Ta038_search Peter Tchaikovsky It Is Truly Fitting No. 2
Dostoyno yest No. 2

Peter Tchaikovsky

SATB

Church Slavonic

Ta038

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Ta044_search Peter Tchaikovsky Legend
Legenda

Peter Tchaikovsky

SATB

Russian

Ta044

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Ta041_search Peter Tchaikovsky Let My Prayer Arise
Da ispravitsia

Peter Tchaikovsky

SSAA

Church Slavonic

Ta041

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Ps003-1_search Peter Tchaikovsky Little Golden Cloud
(Nochevala tuchka zolotaya)

Peter Tchaikovsky

SATB(div)

Russian

PS003-1

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Ta009_search Peter Tchaikovsky Mercy of Peace, A
Milost mira

Peter Tchaikovsky

SATB

Church Slavonic

Ta009

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Cp-mo_search Peter Tchaikovsky Moscow Cantata (Piano-vocal score)

Peter Tchaikovsky

SATB

Russian

CP-MO

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Lord, I Call

Peter Tchaikovsky

With the Voice of the Archangel

Credo Chamber Choir

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The Lord Is King

Peter Tchaikovsky

With the Voice of the Archangel

Credo Chamber Choir

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A mercy of peace

Peter Tchaikovsky

Sacred Songs of Russia

Gloriae Dei Cantores

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Lord's Prayer

Peter Tchaikovsky

God Is With Us

Konevets Quartet

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The Angel cried out

Peter Tchaikovsky

Sacred Songs of Russia

Gloriae Dei Cantores

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Hymn in honor of SS. Cyril and Methodius

Peter Tchaikovsky

Sacred Songs of Russia

Gloriae Dei Cantores

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Without Time or Season

Peter Tchaikovsky

Without Time or Season: Russian Choruses for Children

The Bolshoi Theatre Children's Choir

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Our Father (The Lord's Prayer)

Peter Tchaikovsky

Let My Prayer Arise

Konevets Quartet

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An old French song

Peter Tchaikovsky

Russian Folk Songs, vol. 3

State Academic Russian Choir

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Let my prayer arise

Peter Tchaikovsky

Volume 1 - Russian Orthodox Sacred Music

Vesna Children's Choir, Moscow