STAKHEVICH A. G. SPIRITUAL MUSIC P. G. CHESNOKOV
The life and work of the outstanding Russian composer Pavel Grigoryevich Chesnokov (1877-1944) was devoted to the choral art of the Orthodox Church. Chesnokov’s spiritual musical heritage has been little studied, although the composer’s choral works can be put on a par with the works of his predecessors and contemporaries – A.D. Kastalsky (1856-1926), A.T. Grechaninov (1864-1956), etc.
The vocal-choral style of Chesnokov’s compositions developed under the influence of his activity as regent of church choirs in Moscow (his father was also a regent), studies at the Synodal School, where brilliant experts in church singing S.V. Smolensky (1848-1909), A.D. Kastalsky. Even in the Soviet period of time he managed to combine the activities of the regent and professor of the Moscow Conservatory. P.I. Tchaikovsky, create masterpieces of sacred Orthodox music. The assessment of his work by academician B. Asafyev is unfair: “The choral works of P. G. Chesnokov sound great, but they are all superficial and poorer in the content of Kastalsky’s choirs. Chesnokov’s style is just a magnificent craft. ”
Meanwhile, the works of Chesnokov are characterized mainly by lyrical imagery, and not by Kastalsky’s “austere asceticism”. The great master of choral processing Chesnokov developed Kastalsky’s ideas in this direction, creating works based on ancient church tunes – the famous, Kiev, Greek. However, unlike Kastalsky, Chesnokov did not escape the influence of contemporary professional music. So, a non-chord that sounds light and bright becomes his favorite chord. There is an analogy with the “Tristan” Wagner chord or the “Promethean” Chord of Scriabin. Verdi’s intonations (from “Aida”) are heard in the famous “Shestopsalmiya” for soloists and choir (recording of the work under the direction of N. Matveev). The bright nature of the works does not contradict the text of the prayers at all, gives hope for the salvation of the human soul. These qualities are especially well manifested in liturgical hymns.
Chesnokov no less brilliantly used in his works the possibilities of singing voices and the singing technology typical of the beginning of the 20th century, especially the register nature and the high register transition to f1-g1 female types. The use of low “chest” sounds of alts and sopranos, their combination with the sound of male voices creates a characteristic “choral” timbre, characteristic of the works of A. A. Arkhangelsky (1846-1924) or – even earlier – D. S. Bortnyansky (1751-1825) , the soprano and alto parts of the works of which were performed in the Court singing chapel led by him with male falsetto.
An extremely interesting fact was left by M. I. Glinka in his “Notes” on the process of working on “Ivan Susanin,” in particular, the party of Antonida: “Lomakin, whom I met then, contributed to my work; he brought the singer Belikov (soprano) to try the aria “Not About Mourning”, the riturnel of which played Tikhmenev’s flute. ” It seems unbelievable that the hardest part of Antonida, which is now usually sung by the lyric-coloratura soprano women, was written taking into account the possibilities of falsetto men. This irrefutable fact indicates that the problem of the history and theory of vocal-choral styles in European music has not been studied. Chesnokov’s work is just one of the transitional stages in the evolution of choral art from Bortnyansky to the present. It is remarkable that the main idea of his book “Chorus and its management” (M.-L., 1940) is the idea of the choral structure and intonation, which, when using male falsetto of tenors and low sounds of the breast register of women, was of crucial importance. The continuity of the vocal and choral traditions and the innovations of professional music of his time create the unique style of Chesnokov – the composer.
The spiritual works of Chesnokov included in the anthology are diverse in genre and use in church practice. Of the chants of the All-Vespers, a somewhat ascetic, restrained “Bless the soul” and lyrical and soulful, full of warmth and light “My soul magnifies the Lord” with an incomplete version of the prayer text are presented. Arranged by the composer of the ancient chants is more an artistic restoration of the beauties of the original than just the harmonious accompaniment of the melody, the desire to preserve the melodic pattern, to tone it off with echoes in the old church style (“Blessed is the husband” of the Kiev chant) or to give an original harmonic solution using compactness, sound density of the choral divisi parties (“Angel Cathedral” of the Greek chant). The musical phrase is subordinate to the logic and flexibility of the liturgical text of the prayer (“The Most Holy Theotokos” from the prayer service to the Theotokos).