Rachmaninoff, Sergei: Vespers

Kurt Nemes' Classical Music Almanac

At the mention of Rachmaninoff’s name, I always think “piano.” His first, second, and third piano concertos followed by the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, of course, place him at the pinnacle of composers for that instrument. But every so often, I come across a recording of his Vespers and remember that it contains some of the most beautiful choral music ever written.

I discovered this recording by accident and by luck. While combing through the bins of Rachmaninoff’s music at the local mall one day in 1974, I came across the recording of the Vespers. The lucky thing for me was that the two-record set had been mismarked as a single, so though unfamiliar with the music, I snapped up the album anyway.

What I heard completely astounded me. Written between 1910 and 1915, it is a series of A capella (voices only) choruses. They have…

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