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Symphonic Dances Op 45 No 3 (arr Lavender)

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Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff (trans. Paul Lavender)

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General Info

Year: 1940 / 2015
Duration: c. 13:15
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - £299.00   |   Score Only (print) - $45.00


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

In spite of his impressive career as a concert pianist and composer, Rachmaninoff continued to battle depression throughout his life. This ongoing struggle is portrayed in a semi-autobiographical manner in his final composition, Symphonic Dances. He originally contemplated titling the three movements of the work Morning, Noon, and Twilight to represent three stages of life. He later amended these titles to Midday, Twilight, and Midnight to more accurately reflect the tone of each movement. Although Rachmaninoff eventually decided not to use these descriptive headings, the knowledge of these associations proves helpful in understanding this remarkable music.

The work contains a number of self-referential thematic allusions. There are themes from the composer’s first and third symphonies, allusions to his choral symphony The Bells, and the second of his two suites for piano. Some of the strongest autobiographical elements can be found in the third movement, and of these none is more powerful than the use of the Dies irae, the medieval liturgical chant for the dead that has been used by composers for centuries to musically represent the concept of death. While many composers have used this theme, none have been so fixated upon it as Rachmaninoff, who employed it in more than a dozen works. But his treatment of the Dies irae in Symphonic Dances is unique, for it is balanced by contrasting Russian liturgical chants throughout the movement. The battle between these forces of light and dark appears to be resolved when the “Alleluia” motive from Rachmaninoff ’s choral All-Night Vigil (sometimes referred to as Vespers) appears near the end of the work. Representing the resurrection of Christ, its appearance guides this work to a resounding and uplifting finish. Any doubt about Rachmaninoff ’s spiritual conviction is erased by the inscription he affixed to the final bar of Symphonic Dances: “I thank thee, O Lord.”

- Program Note from liner notes of Altissimo! CD From the Keyboard (U.S. Marine Band)

Commercial Discography


State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA
  • Louisiana: V
  • Texas: V. Complete


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Scatterday, conductor) – 8 May 2017

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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