Rachmaninov Vespers (All Night Vigil) Vocal ScoreThe All-Night Vigil (also known, more commonly in English-speaking countries, as the Vespers) is notable as one of two liturgical settings (the other being the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) by a composer who had stopped attending church services. As required by the Russian Orthodox Church, Rachmaninoff based ten of the fifteen sections on chant. However, the five original sections (numbers 1, 3, 6, 10, & 11) were so heavily influenced by chant that the composer called them "conscious counterfeits". If you wish to buy Rachmaninov's Vespers, please click Vocal Scores and then FILTER BY COMPOSER, or see below for more.
The Vigil includes three styles of chant: znamenny (in numbers 8, 9, 12, 13 & 14), a more recitational 'Greek' style (numbers 2 & 15), and 'Kiev' chant - the Ukrainian adaptation of znamenny style (numbers 4 & 5). Before writing, Rachmaninoff had studied ancient chant under Stepan Smolensky, to whom he dedicated the piece. It is written for a four-part choir, complete with basso profondo. However, in many parts there is three, five, six, or eight-part harmony; at one point in the seventh movement, the choir is divided into eleven parts. Movements 4 and 9 each contain a brief tenor solo, while movements 2 and 5 feature lengthy solos for alto and tenor, respectively. The fifth movement Nunc dimittis (Nyne otpushchayeshi) has gained notoriety for its ending, in which the low basses must negotiate a descending scale that ends with a low B flat (the third B flat below middle C). When Rachmaninoff initially played this passage through to Kastalsky and Danilin in preparation for the first performance, Rachmaninoff recalled that:
Danilin shook his head, saying, "Now where on earth are we to find such basses? They are as rare as asparagus at Christmas!" Nevertheless, he did find them. I knew the voices of my countrymen...
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