Liturgical works were an absolute fascination for me around 1990. The first time I heard them was from my girlfriend at that time. She was quite religious, and I was in love. So naturally, I had to listen to that too. I lost the girl, but never the music.
Tchaikovsky wrote this choral work for the most celebrated church service in the Orthodox church. He was not supposed to do that however, as writing sacred pieces was the sole province of the Imperial Chapel (now St. Petersburg State Academic Capella). It led to a court case, but also gave the piece a lot of publicity. Everyone and their mother wanted to see this scandalous piece!
St. John Chrysostom was a fifth century bishop of Constantinople. His epithet Chrysostom means “golden-mouthed” and refers to his inspiring public speeches. Aside from talking, he also destroyed the Temple of Artemis in Ephesos.
This was recorded at the Alexander Nevsky Memorial Church in Sofia. That place has one hell of a reverb, and it was a bit too much for me. I think it kind of destroys the character of this piece. It is now more “Golden” than “mouthed”.