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Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff (ar. William V Johnson)

Subtitle: (O Serene Light); From Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op.37

General Info

Year: 1915/2013
Duration: c. 3:00
Difficulty: III (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Manuscript

For availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Choral music makes up a relative small part of Rachmaninoff’s creative output, yet his Vespers is praised as his finest achievement. This work consists of 15 liturgical choral works for a-capella choir and was composed in less than two weeks in January and February 1915. The first performance was given in Moscow on March 10th of that year. It was received warmly by critics and audiences alike, and was so successful that it was performed five more times within a month. “Even in my dreams I could not have imagined that I would write such a work,” Rachmaninoff told the singers at the first performance.

Vespers draws from the ancient musical tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church, with its self-effacing focus on communal worship. The work shows Rachmaninoff anticipating an alternative to modernism’s abrupt break with tradition by reclaiming early-music elements outside the mainstream classical tradition -- a strategy that continues to be followed by a wide spectrum of contemporary composers.

For years I have been fascinated and moved by the beauty of these choral pieces. Working with woodwinds and brasses and even percussion, I have come to realize that the wind band is much like a choir with its many colors and vocal-like emphasis on blend and balance. Indeed, Percy Grainger’s Hortstow Grange for wind band sounds much like a Russian choir, and some of the wind band works of Eric Whitacre and Frank Ticheli are transcriptions of beautifully lush choral works.

- Program notes by William V. Johnson


Choral version. Ensemble unknown

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


None discovered thus far.