Rachmaninoff’s Vespers

Bard Festival Chorale

James Bagwell, Conductor

The choral traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church remained a profound musical influence on Rachmaninoff throughout his life and he wrote two major sacred works for unaccompanied choir. Program Ten showcases the Bard Festival Chorale’s interpretation of the second: the Vespers (All-Night Vigil).

A spiritual work whose resonant a capella sonorities use the full range of the human voice, this comprises 15 movements, nine based on traditional Eastern Orthodox chants from Greece, Kyiv, and Russia, and six on chant-like motifs of Rachmaninoff’s own invention.

Considering the Vespers one of his two finest achievements, the composer requested that its fifth movement, the “Nunc dimittis,” be sung at his funeral.


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