Rachmaninov – All night vigil


The most famous liturgical work of the Russian Orthodox Church is a monument created by someone that didn’t go to church anymore. Sometimes wrongly translated as Vespers, but it’s considerably more than that: it is the liturgical equivalent of an all night party. A combination of the Compline, Vespers, Matins and Prime, it basically covers the canonical hours from the late evening to the early morning. It is meant for Sundays and feast days.

Rachmaninov wrote his vigil in 1915, also to help Russia in the First World War. It had a successful run of performances in Moscow that year, but after the Russian Revolution in 1917 all religious music was forbidden by the state and in a way the piece was symbolic for the end of an era.

The fifth part, called Nine Otpoushtaeshi ends in a notoriously low register for bass voices. The piece was a favourite of Rachmaninov, and he asked for it to be performed at his funeral. It is followed by a part that much later formed the basis for the song Mother of God, Chase Putin Away by protest group Pussy Riot. You can find the classics everywhere!

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