"St Petersburg" hymn melody
  • I've got a hymn text which is recommended to be sung to the melody "St Petersburg" (Dimitri Bortnianski). I can't find this in any hymnal I have at hand, but an internet search provides me with two somewhat different versions (one is on hymnary.org). Does anyone know if there's a "definitive" version, or is this one of those tortured melodies of which everyone has their own "true" version? (It's 88.88.88 so not hard to find an alternative if I'm wading into troubled waters).
  • Hymnal 1940, #499 (Text given with it is "Before thy throne, O God, we kneel". Gives the tune name "St. Petersburg", meter is 88 88 88 as you described, tune credit, "Arr. from Dmitri S. Bortniansky, 1825."
    Hope this helps.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,901
    Btw, just because it seems a lot of casual users may not realize it, the "Page Scans" section of a Hymnary tune entry records many versions in reverse chronological order from left to right (that is, cursor right to go back further in time). One may find, as is the case with this tune, versions in different meters (with passing tones omitted).

    Hymnal 1940 is usually a good barometer of best tune practice in mid-20th American mainstream Protestant (Episcopalian-Lutheran-Methodist-Presbyterian) hymnals.
  • FKulash
    Posts: 76
    When hymnary.org provides multiple page scans, that gives you an idea of how widely used different versions of the same tune are. If you want to know which version the composer wrote, the companions to Episcopal hymnals will usually say how their versions differ from their sources, and, when applicable, have references to Zahn's "Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder" (e.g. Zahn #2964 for ST. PETERSBURG) which usually has the oldest known version and significant later revisions.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • I love this hymntune.
  • If I'm not mistaken, the recent BBC production of "War and Peace" contains a scene where this tune is sung as a hymn in Slavonic---General Kutuzov (played magnificently by Brian Cox) kneeling as a procession with icons passes by.
  • It was, at the time Kutuzov knelt, 1812, reckoned as the Imperial anthem, so this was a good choice by the Beeb.