Room 91--Remembering the Russian church

Serge Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of the greatest Russian pianists after the turn of the 20th century. He had gigantic hands, and could reach the interval of an octave and a fifth. He wrote four challenging piano concertos and many solo works. One of the more unusual compositions he wrote was a group of 12 sacred choral works, collectively known as the Vespers, Op. 37. The work was completed in 1915, and is the composer’s tribute to Russian liturgical music.

The first recording of the Vigil was made by Alexander Sveshnikov with the State Russian Choir (at the time known as the USSR Academic Russian Choir) for the Soviet Melodiya label in 1965. Because of Soviet anti-religious policies, this record was never available for sale within the USSR, but was only made for the export market and private study. This recording still has a legendary reputation, in part because of its extremely strong low basses, but also because of the incredible solos by Klara Korkan and Konstantin Ognevoi.

By clicking the next link you will be able to hear the section based on the “Nunc dimittis” text (Now let thy servant depart). At the end, the bass voices are asked to sing a low B-flat, (the third space below the bass staff). Listen!

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