Hymn to St. Daniil for mixed choir and orchestra
Penderecki has always felt great respect for
Russian culture. He is well read in Russian literature and listens to Russian
artistic and sacred Orthodox-church music. Before he composed his Hymn to St. Daniil
for the 850th anniversary of the foundation of Moscow (Slava svyatomu Daniilu knyazyu Moskovskomu),
he had already had important experiences with musical aspects of Russian
Orthodox liturgy in his Utrenya
and the Song of Cherubim.
He was therefore very well prepared for the Moscow commission that came from TV-6,
one of Russia’s first private television broadcasters. Hymn to St. Daniil
was premiered in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, conducted by the composer. The
occasion was very solemn, with official speeches, state hymns, flowers and
The piece was a tremendous success and was greeted with a standing ovation. This “product made in Penderecki” – as Moscow reviewers called it after the premiere – is based on a text in Old Church Slavonic and on Eastern Orthodox psalmody. The music takes on various forms from heterophony to antiphonal singing. The orchestra is used economically, but its role is carefully thought out. The choir is mainly supported by the brass including trumpets placed in the audience, double basses and a percussion ensemble.
Hymn to St. Daniil impresses the audience with its grandeur, powerful sound – especially in the finale with church bells – clarity of melodic lines and emotional message. It precisely suited the solemn occasion: a composition written in praise of the first Duke of Moscow, famed as a good and just ruler who laid the foundations for the future greatness of Muscovite dukes and tsars. It would be hard to imagine a piece of music that expresses the feelings of pride, power and unity accompanying the anniversary celebrations better than Penderecki’s hymn.