Listen: Ivan the Terrible was a Composer

Ivan the Terrible was a composer. Yes, he did not only kill his son in a fit of rage and have his two best architects blinded after creating Saint Basil’s Cathedral – Ivan Gozny also composed beautiful music.


Well, was he a terrible composer? Not at all.

Ivan Grozny was a capable man. He consolidated power under his rule, squeezed the boyars, established the Oprichnina and conquered Kazan and Astrakhan Khanates as well as the vast territories of Siberia.

Meanwhile, Ivan the Terrible was also open to new ideas and foreign trade. He promoted culture and art. Ivan, being a deeply religious man, enjoyed rhyming poems and singing in a church choir. He also composed new chants himself.

Here we have two examples, two sticherons that were found and recorded in 1989 under the conduct of Igor Voronov. This came to be the very first compact disc, issued in the Soviet Union. And what is a sticheron again? It is a liturgical hymn that is sung during the morning and evening services in the Orthodox church.

Sticheron No 1: For the Death of Pyotr, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia (30:47)

It tells the story of Metropolitan Pyotr who lived in the 13th-14th centuries.

Sticheron No 2: To the Meeting of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir (38:15)

It tells a detailed story in a very poetic language about a renown event from 1395, when Tamerlane was approaching Moscow with his large army and the great Vladimir icon of the Mother of God was taken near him that eventually helped and made Tamerlane turn back and leave the land of Russians alone. Performed in this video by the choir of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church, conducted by Anatoly Grindenko.

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