God’s Name in Russian Music
IN 1877, well-known Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky published a choral work based on a story set in the Bible lands. “I’ve written a Biblical scene Jesus Navinus [Joshua],” he wrote to a friend, “entirely according to the Bible and even following the route of the victorious marches of Navinus through Canaan.” In other compositions, including “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” Mussorgsky also drew on Biblical themes and characters.
Significantly, in “Jesus Navinus,” as well as in his 1874 edition of “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” Mussorgsky refers to God, using the Russian pronunciation of the divine name, which is represented in the Hebrew Scriptures by four consonants—יהוה (YHWH)—and appears nearly 7,000 times.
Thus, these works of Mussorgsky demonstrate that the Biblical name of God—Jehovah—was known in Russian society well before the turn of the 20th century. That is fitting, since Jehovah himself told Moses: “This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.”—Exodus 3:15.
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St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1913, where the printed score of Mussorgsky’s music is kept
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Sheet music: The Scientific Music Library of the Saint-Petersburg State Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov; street scene: National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg