Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov (Russian: Павел Григорьевич Чесноков) (24 October 1877, Voskresensk, Zvenigorod uyezd, Moscow Governorate – 14 March 1944, Moscow), also transliterated Tschesnokoff, Tchesnokov, Tchesnokoff, and Chesnokoff, was a Russian Empire and Soviet composer, choral conductor and teacher. He composed over five hundred choral works, over four hundred of which are sacred. Today, he is most known for his piece Salvation is Created as well as works such as Do Not Reject Me in Old Age (solo for basso profondo). His anthem O Lord God has served as the signature benedictory of Luther College's Nordic Choir (Decorah, Iowa, USA) since 1948.
Chesnokov was born in Vladimir, near Moscow on 24 October 1877. While attending the Moscow Conservatory, he received extensive training in both instrumental and vocal music including nine years of solfege, and seven years training for both the piano and violin. His studies in composition included four years of harmony, counterpoint, and form. During his years at the school, he had the opportunity to study with prominent Russian composers like Sergei Taneyev and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, who greatly influence his style of liturgy-driven, choral composition.
At an early age, Chesnokov gained recognition as a great conductor and choirmaster while leading many groups including the Russian Choral Society Choir. This reputation earned him a position on staff at the Moscow Conservatory where great composers and music scholars like Tchaikovsky shared their skills and musical insight. There he founded a choral conducting program, which he taught from 1920 until his death.
By the age of 30, Chesnokov had completed nearly four hundred sacred choral works, but his proliferation of church music came to a standstill at the time of the Russian revolution. Under communist rule, no one was permitted to produce any form of sacred art. So in response, he composed an additional hundred secular works, and conducted secular choirs like the Moscow Academy Choir and the Bolshoi Theatre Choir. In the Soviet era religion was often under oppression, and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, whose last choirmaster had been Chesnokov, was destroyed. This disturbed him so deeply that he stopped writing music altogether.
He died on 14 March 1944.
- The cathedral was demolished in 1933 in order to construct a House of Soviets - a massive skyscraper intended to house various government authorities and promote the Soviet regime, topped with a 100-meter-tall aluminum statue of the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. However, because of technical difficulties this building was never constructed and the site was instead used for an outdoor swimming pool which occupied the area till the early 1990s, when government officials began to consider a project to rebuild the church originally on the site. It was reconstructed in the early 1990s (Moscow Hotels, JSC 2001-2007).
Some notable works
- Salvation is Created (1912)
- O Lord God
- Now We Sing the Praise
- Duh Tvoy Blagiy ("Let Thy Good Spirit")
- Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts Op.24
- Panikhída Op.39
- Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom Op.42
- All-night vigil Op.44
- Bakst, James. A History of Russian-Soviet Music. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1966.
- deAlbuquerque, Joan. Salvation Is Created, Pavel Tschesnokoff (1877-1944). Vol. IV, in Teaching Music through Performance in Band, by Larry Blocher, Eugene M Corporon, Ray Cramer, Tim Lautzenheiser, Edward S. Lisk and Richard Miles, 370-374. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 1997-2002.
- Leonard, Richard Anthony. A History of Russian Music. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1956.
- Moscow Hotels, JSC. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior. 2001-2007. http://www.moscow-taxi.com/churches/cathedral-of-christ-savior.html (accessed April 8, 2008).
- Thompson, Oscar. The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians. Tenth Edition. Edited by Bruce Bohle. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1975.