27 November 2015

‘Lord have Mercy’ and the music
of Alexei Fyodorovich Lvov

Patrick Comerford

During the past week in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, we have been reflecting on and praying with the Jesus Prayer: Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλό; Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner.

On Thursday morning [26 November 2015], we were invited to listen to and to watch this recording of Lord have Mercy by Alexei Lvov.

The Russian composer Alexei Fyodorovich Lvov (Алексей Фёдорович Львов) (1799-1870) is better known for Russian imperial anthem Bozhe, tsarya khrani (“God Save the Tsar”) and his opera Undine (1846).

Lvov was born into a musical family: his father, Feodor Petrovich Lvov, was the Maestro of the Imperial Chapel in St Petersburg (1826-1836). Lvov codified the simple but traditional Russian liturgical musical style called Obikhod, which is the standard repertoire of Russian Orthodox churches.

Alexei Fyodorovich Lvov began working as a career as a civil engineer in the Imperial Army, eventually becoming a general and aide-de-camp to Tsar Nicholas I. He formed a string quartet in St Petersburg, and so he came to meet Liszt, Robert and Clara Schumann, and Berlioz. He also became friends with Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer and Spontini.

In 1837, he succeeded his father as Maestro of the Imperial Chapel, and continued in that position until 1861.

As a composer, Lvov’s style was eclectic. He combined the traditions of Russian musical culture with strong Italian and (especially) German influences.

In searching for this recording of Lvov’s Lord have Mercy, I also came across this recording of his Of thy Mystical Supper by the Afonsky Choir under Nikolai Afonskogo.

Church Slavonic text:

Вечери твоея тайныя днесь,
Сыне Божий, причастника мя приими,
не бо врагом твоим тайну повем,
ни лобзания ти дам, яко Иуда,
но яко разбойник исповедую тя:
помяни мя, Господи, во царствии твоем.

Of thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God,
accept me today as a communicant.
For I will not speak of thy Mystery to thine enemies,
neither like Judas will I give thee a kiss;
but like the thief will I confess thee:
‘Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom.’

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