A Stirring Russian Melody


I remembered this week that I haven’t put up a post for The Sovereign’s international readers recently. If my statistics tell me anything, The Sovereign’s regular readers come from about two to five dozen countries. Including drop-in visitors, readers come from 192 countries.

I wanted to add to my collection of posts of international worship music for the large variety of readers of The Sovereign. So, I began looking into Russian hymns and discovered the National Anthem of Tzarist Russia. Here’s the history of God Save the Tsar (Bozhe Tsarya Khranii or Боже, Царя храни)

The Music and the Composer

According to Hymnary.org:

Alexey Feodorovitch Lvov (1799 – 1870) composed [the National Anthem] in 1833 one night “on the spur of the moment,” according to his memoirs, after Czar Nicholas I asked him to compose a truly Russian national anthem (rather than continuing to sing a Russian text to the English melody for “God Save Our Gracious King”!). Lvov’s tune was accepted and has been featured as the Russian anthem in various compositions (including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture)… Lvov served in the Russian army from 1818 to 1837, advancing to personal adjutant to Czar Nicholas I as a major-general. In 1837, he succeeded his father as director of the imperial court chapel choir in St. Petersburg, a post he retained until 1861. A fine violinist, Lvov played Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in Leipzig with the composer conducting in 1840. He toured with his own string quartet until deafness forced his retirement in 1867. Lvov composed much church music for the imperial choir as well as a violin concerto and several operas. He also compiled a collection of church music for the Orthodox church year, but is best known as the composer of the tune for the Russian national anthem.

I have always loved Russian male choruses, so I was really pleased to find a performance of God Save the Tsar (Bozhe Tsarya Khranii or Боже, Царя храни), the National Anthem of Tzarist Russia. (UPDATE: October 2021, the link is no longer available.)

The Lyrics to God, the Omnipotent

This majestic piece is perfect for a hymn about our almighty God. The melody has been used as a hymn tune since 1842 and is most associated with God, the Omnipotent. Watch a video of a worship service of God, the Omnipotent to hear it performed with pipe organ and voices. A nice brass ensemble would also work well.

God the All-terrible! King, who ordainest
Great winds Thy clarion, the lightnings Thy sword;
Show forth Thy pity on high where Thou reignest,
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the Omnipotent, Mighty Avenger,
Watching invisible, judging unheard,
Save us in mercy, O save us from danger;
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the All-merciful! Earth hath forsaken
Thy ways of blessedness, slighted Thy word;
Bid not Thy wrath in its terrors awaken;
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the All-righteous One! man hath defied thee;
Yet to eternity standeth thy word,
Falsehood and wrong shall not tarry beside thee;
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

So shall Thy children with thankful devotion,
Laud Him who saved them from peril abhorred;
Singing in chorus, from ocean to ocean,
Peace to the nations, and praise to the Lord.

I love that closing line, “peace to the nations, and praise to the Lord.” Consider using these lyrics for your personal meditation on God, the Father.

NOTES:

  • The link to Mendelssohn’s violin concerto is a performance by virtuoso, Isaac Stern (1920 – 2001). Stern was born in the Ukraine during a turbulent time into a VolhynianJewish family. The family moved to San Francisco in 1921.
  • The melody shows up in quite a few places in case it’s familiar to you. Read more on Wikipedia.
  • The image for today’s post is a screenshot from the Russian video.
  • I’m adding worship videos in various languages. Find them here.

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