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Written at the most turbulent time in Russian history, the ‘Vespers’ or ‘All night Vigil’  by Sergei Rachmaninov  is  a veritable cornerstone of the choral repertoire. The composer appeared to be responding to the chaos and suffering all around him in Russia –  the catastrophic  turmoil  of the  first  World War being waged  universally and the impending seismic  Russian Revolution.  It took Rachmaninov just two weeks to complete  the ‘Vespers’ during January and February  of  1915. The music employs as its fundamental basis (in 10 out of 15 sections)  chants from the Russian Orthodox tradition, or some “conscious counterfeits of the ritual”, as Rachmaninov  put it. Throughout the ‘Vespers’, Rachmaninov’s immense compositional skills are on display – exploring  a variety of textures, timbres, rhythms and vocal registers  -  especially  requiring the basses to plumb the extreme depths of their range. The entire work is  ‘a capella’, and  includes  solo parts  for  an alto and a tenor in three of the movements.


The programme will also include several motets  drawn  largely  from composers of the 16th  and  17th centuries, including  Gesualdo, Lassus and Victoria – reflecting  the Passiontide  theme.

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