Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom

Tchaikovsky Research

Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Литургия святого Иоанна Златоуста), Op. 41 (TH 75 ; ČW 77), is a setting of fifteen numbers from the Russian Orthodox Liturgy for unaccompanied voices, made by Tchaikovsky in 1878.


Scored for unaccompanied mixed chorus (SATB).

Movements and Duration

The fifteen numbers are intended to be sung at specific points in the liturgy service.

  1. Amen. Lord Have Mercy (Амин. Господи помилуй)
    After the exclamation "Blessed is the Kingdom" (После возглашения «Благословенно царство») (50 bars).
  2. Glory to the Father and to the Son (Слава Отцу и Сыну)
    After the First Antiphon (После первого антифона) (63 bars).
  3. Come, Let Us Worship (Придите, поклонимся)
    After the Little Entrance (После малого входа) (56 bars).
  4. Alleleuja (Аллилуйя)
    After the Epistle Reading (После чтения апостола) (15 bars).
  5. Glory to Thee, O Lord (Слава тебе Господи)
    After the Gospel Reading (После чтения евангелия) (26 bars).
  6. Cherubic Hymn (Херувимская песнь) (98 bars).
  7. Lord Have Mercy (Господи помилуй)
    After the Cherubic Hymn (После херувимской песни) (16 bars).
  8. I Believe in One God, The Father, The Almighty (Верую во Единаго Бога Отца)
    The Creed (Символ веры) (92 bars).
  9. Merciful Peace (Милость мира)
    After the Creed (После Cимвола веры) (42 bars).
  10. We Hymn Thee (Тебе поем)
    After the exclamation "Thine Own of Thine Own" (После возглашения «Твоя от твоих») (39 bars).
  11. It is Truly Fitting (Достойно есть)
    After the words "Especially For Our Most Holy" (После слов «Изрядко о пресвятей») (55 bars).
  12. Amen. And With Your Spirit, Lord Have Mercy (Амин. И со духом твоим, Господи, помилуй)
    After the exclamation "And Grant That With Our Mouths" (После возглашения: «И даждь нам единеми усты») (13 bars).
  13. Our Father (Отче наш)
    The Lord's Prayer (Молитва Господня) (44 bars).
  14. Praise the Lord from the Heavens (Хвалите, хвалите, Господа с небес)
    Communion Hymn (Причастный стих) (86 bars).
  15. Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord (Благословен грядый во имя Господне)
    After the Exclamation "In the Fear of God" (После возглашения «Со страхом Божиим») (92 bars).

A complete concert performance lasts around 50 minutes.


Tchaikovsky adapted the text from the Russian Orthodox Liturgy service.


The idea of composing the Liturgy dates from the end of April 1878 [1]. The Liturgy was composed between 4/16 May and 27 May/8 June 1878 [2], together with four of the Six Romances, Op. 38, and the violin pieces Souvenir d'un lieu cher. The composer's letters between 21 July/2 August and 29 July/10 August the same year show that it was sent together with the other manuscripts to Pyotr Jurgenson [3].

The Cherubic Hymn (No. 6) and Lord's Prayer (No. 13) may both have been revised in 1880, prior to the first public performance of the Liturgy in Moscow.


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 of the Liturgy took place in Kiev University Church in June 1879. In Moscow, it was first heard in a private concert of church music at the Conservatory in November 1880, and later at a special concert of the Russian Musical Society at the Nobles' Club on 18/30 December 1880, performed by Pyotr Sakharov's Chudovsky Chorus. Its success with the public was great, although the opinion of the press was divided [4].

Tchaikovsky also conducted the Lord's Prayer (No. 13) on his American tour, at the Carnegie Music Hall in New York on 26 April/8 May 1891.


On 1/13 and 2/14 November 1878, while stopping in Moscow on his way from Saint Petersburg to Kamenka, Tchaikovsky corrected the proofs of the Liturgy [5]. When the Liturgy appeared in print early in 1879, its appearance on sale in Moscow and Saint Petersburg caused protests from the offices of the Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, Nikolay Bakhmetyev, who began legal proceedings against Jurgenson, accusing him of publishing the Liturgy without the approval of the director of the chapel, and of violating a number of government and synodal decrees. Jurgenson had 143 of his plates of the Liturgy confiscated. and Bakhmetyev prosecuted him for allegedly breaking the law.

Although in June 1879 the Chief Administration for Printed Matter (Главное управление по делам печати) in Moscow authorized Jurgenson to publish the Liturgy, subject to the approval of the city's church censor, Nikolay Bakhmetyev continued to protest. Then Pyotr Jurgenson took legal action against Bakhmetyev. Nevertheless, the continued circulation of the composition hindered Bakhmetyev and his supporters among the clergy. The judgement of the Interior Minister was finally made in December 1879, and this was also in favour of Jurgenson. Eventually, the confiscated plates were released in November and December 1880 on the orders of the Synod, who enacted a decree allowing the Moscow church censor to approve the publication of church music without reference to the Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir.

In 1887, Pyotr Jurgenson published the choral parts of the Liturgy; the choral score had been printed in 1885 [6]. A second edition of the Liturgy appeared in 1896 [7].

The Liturgy (omitting the piano reduction) was published in volume 63 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1990), edited by Lyudmila Korabelnikova and Marina Rakhmanova. The choral score and piano reduction were both included in Series V, Volume 1 of the Academic Edition of the Complete Works, edited by Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev (2016).


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. 124) [view].


See: Discography

External Links

Notes and References

  1. See Letter 820 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 April/12 May 1878.
  2. See Letter 843 to Nadezhda von Meck, 27 May/8 June 1878.
  3. See Letter 883 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 20 July/1 August 1878.
  4. See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), pp. 438–441.
  5. See Letter 957 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 2/14 November 1878, and Letter 959 to Nadezhda von Meck, 6/18 November 1878.
  6. In 1883, the violinist Ivan Gavrushkevich asked Tchaikovsky if he could arrange the Liturgy for string quintet with two cellos, or for a quintet of three violins and two cellos. Evidently Tchaikovsky declined this proposition (see letter from Ivan Gavrushkevich to Tchaikovsky, 8/20 January 1883 — Klin House-Museum Archive — and Letter 2218 from Tchaikovsky to Pyotr Jurgenson, 4/16 February 1883).
  7. Passed by the censor on 4/16 November 1896.