All-Night Vigil

Tchaikovsky Research

The All-Night Vigil (Всенощное бдение), Op. 52 (TH 77 ; ČW 78 (score), ČW 584 (preface)), also known as the Vesper Service, was written between May 1881 and March 1882. Tchaikovsky described it as "An essay in harmonisation of liturgical chants".


Scored for unaccompanied mixed chorus (SATB).

Movements and Duration

There are seventeen numbers, intended to be sung at specific points during the service.

  1. Introductory Psalm: "Bless My Soul, O Lord" (Предначинательный псалом: «Благослови душе моя»)
  2. "Lord Have Mercy" and other brief responses («Господи, помилуй» и другие краткие молитвословия)
  3. Kathisma: "Blessed is the Man"' (Кафисма: «Блажен муж»)
  4. "Lord, I Call to Thee" («Господи, воззвах к Тебе»)
  5. "Gladsome Light" («Свете тихий»)
  6. "Rejoice, O Virgin" («Богородице, Дево, радуйся»)
  7. "The Lord is God" («Бог Господь»)
  8. Polyeleion: "Praise the Name of the Lord" (Полиелей: «Хвалите имя Господне»)
  9. Troparia: "Blessed Art Thou, Lord" (Тропари: «Благословен еси Господи»)
  10. Gradual Antiphon: "From My Youth" (Степенна «От юности моея»)
  11. Hymns after the Gospel Reading: "Having Beheld the Resurrection of Christ" (Песнопения по Евангелии: «Воскресение Христово видевше»)
  12. Common Katabasis: "I Shall Open My Lips" (Катавасия рядовая: «Отверзну уста моя»)
  13. Canticle of the Mother of God (Песнь Богоматери с припевом)
  14. "Holy is the Lord Our God" («Свят Господь Бог наш»)
  15. Theotokion: "Both Now and Forever" (Богородичен «И ныне и присно»)
  16. Great Doxology: "Glory to God in the Highest" (Великое славословие: «Слава в вышних Богу»)
  17. "To Thee the Glorious Leader" («Взбранной Воеводе победительная»)

A complete concert performance lasts around 45 minutes.


Tchaikovsky adapted the text from the Russian Orthodox Liturgy service. Several of the numbers are based on the text of Biblical psalms:

  • No. 1 – after Psalm 103.
  • No. 3 – after Psalm 150.
  • No. 4 – after Psalm 140.
  • No. 7 – after Psalm 117.
  • No. 8 – after Psalms 134 and 135.
  • No. 9 – after Psalm 148.
  • No. 10 – after Psalms 119–132.
  • No. 11 – after Psalms 148, 149, 150 and 140.


In a letter of 8/20 May 1881, Tchaikovsky asked Pyotr Jurgenson to send him the complete text of the All-Night Vigil and Dmitry Razumovsky's Russian Church Songs (Церковное пение в России) [1]. On 21 June/3 July the composer told Jurgenson: "I am now writing church-music, which is an attempt (albeit a very modest one) to come to grips with the style established by Bortnyansky and tutti quanti of others..." [2]. The composer also wrote about this to Eduard Nápravník: "I am occupying myself with the study of our ancient church hymns and am making attempts to transcribe them for four-part chorus. The result of these efforts will be an All-Night Vigil, in which I should like to contribute, if but a little, towards the sobering up of our church music, which has been distorted by the untalented and banal editions of the [Imperial] Chapel" [3]. By mid/late July the rough work was complete [4].

On 1/13 September 1881, the composer wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson from Kamenka: "My opus is completely ready, i.e. the All-Night Vigil, which I had begun to copy out, but was interrupted by Bortnyansky [5], and since I could not sustain both works, I abandoned it for a time" [6]. The task of editing Bortnyansky's compositions, and then working on the opera Mazepa, the Piano Trio, along with various other compositions considerably delayed the completion of the All-Night Vigil. Only on 7/19 February 1882 did Tchaikovsky resume the copying out of this composition, which was completed by 7/19 March 1882 in Naples [7].


Tchaikovsky made a piano arrangement of the score which was intended to be published as an aid to rehearsals only, and not for separate performance.


The first performance took place in Moscow in a concert in the hall of the Arts and Industrial Exhibition on 27 June/9 July 1882, by the Chudovsky Chorus, conducted by Pyotr Sakharov.


In August, Tchaikovsky reviewed changes to the text required by the censor, and in late September/early October he received the first proofs of the Vigil, which were returned in mid/late October [8]. The issuing of the full score was held up until March 1883 by the church censor, whose petty objections meant that Jurgenson was prevented from bringing out the edition as advertised [9].

  • Full score (including piano reduction) — Moscow: P. Jurgenson, 1883. Plates 4882 to 4897б, 115 pages.
  • Choral parts — Moscow: P. Jurgenson, 1883. Plates 5539-5555.

The full scores and choral parts of each number were also issued separately.

The All-Night Vigil (omitting the piano reduction) was published in volume 63 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1990), edited by Lyudmila Korabelnikova and Marina Rakhmanova.

See also online resources.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score (which includes his piano reduction for rehearsal purposes) is now preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 123).


See: Discography

Notes and References

  1. Letter 1745 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 8/20 May 1881.
  2. Letter 1791 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 21 June/3 July 1881.
  3. Letter 1801 to Eduard Nápravník, 3/15 July 1881.
  4. See Letter 1826 to Sergey Taneyev, 5/17 August 1881.
  5. The task of editing Bortnyansky's Complete Church Music.
  6. Letter 1849 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 1/13 September 1881.
  7. See Letter 1958, 7/19 February 1882, and Letter 1987, 7/19 March 1882, to Nadezhda von Meck.
  8. See Letter 2113 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 20 September/2 October 1882.
  9. See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 1/13 March 1883 — Klin House-Museum Archive. The published first edition bears the censor's date of 2 August 1882.