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Sergei Rachmaninov   Opus 37


Choir 1915. Time: 50'00.

a.k.a. All Night Virgil or Vsenoshehnoye. A capella.

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For the liturgical service, see All-night vigil

The All-Night Vigil (Russian: Всенощное бдение, Vsenoshchnoe bdenie), Opus 37, is an a cappella choral composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff, written and premiered in 1915. It consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox All-night vigil ceremony. It has been praised as Rachmaninoff's finest achievement[1] and "the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church".[2] It was one of Rachmaninoff's two favorite compositions[3] along with The Bells, and the composer requested that one of its movements (the fifth) be sung at his funeral[3]. The title of the work is often translated as simply Vespers, which is both literally and conceptually incorrect as applied to the entire work: only the first six of its fifteen movements set texts from the Russian Orthodox canonical hour of Vespers.


Composition and Performance History

The All-Night Vigil was written in less than two weeks in January and February 1915[4], and was first performed in Moscow in the March of that year, partly to benefit the Russian war effort. Nikolai Danilin conducted the all-male Moscow Synodal Choir at the premiere. It was received warmly by critics and audiences alike, and was so successful that it was performed five more times within a month[5]. However the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Soviet Union led to a ban on performances of all religious music, and on 22 July 1918 the Synodal Choir was replaced by a nonreligious "People's Choir Academy".[6] It has been written that "no composition represents the end of an era so clearly as this liturgical work"[7].


The All-Night Vigil is perhaps 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".

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...[3]


Church Slavonic English
1 Приидите, поклонимся Come, Let Us Worship
2 Благослови, душе моя (греческого роспева) Praise the Lord, O My Soul (Greek Chant)
3 Блажен муж Blessed is the Man
4 Свете тихий (киевского роспева) O Gentle Light (Kiev Chant)
5 Ныне отпущаеши (киевского роспева) Lord, Now Lettest Thou (Kiev Chant)
6 Богородице Дево, радуйся Rejoice, O Virgin (Hail Mary)
7 Шестопсалмие The Six Psalms
8 Хвалите имя Господне (знаменного роспева) Praise the Name of the Lord (Znamenny Chant)
9 Благословен еси Господи (знаменного роспева) Blessed Art Thou, O Lord (Znamenny Chant)
10 Воскресение Христово видевше Having Beheld the Resurrection
11 Величит душа моя Господа My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord
12 Славословие великое (знаменного роспева) The Great Doxology (Znamenny Chant)
13 Тропарь: Днесь спасение (знаменного роспева) Troparion: Today Salvation is Come (Znamenny Chant)
14 Тропарь: Воскрес из гроба (знаменного роспева) Troparion: Thou Didst Rise from the Tomb (Znamenny Chant)
15 Взбранной Воеводе (греческого роспева) O Queen Victorious (Greek Chant)


The first recording of the Vigil was made by Alexander Sveshnikov with the State Russian Choir (at the time known as the USSR Academic Russian Choir) for the Soviet Melodiya label in 1965. Because of Soviet anti-religious policies, this record was never available for sale within the USSR, but was only made for the export market and private study. This recording still has a legendary reputation, in part because of its extremely strong low basses, but also because of the solos by Klara Korkan and Konstantin Ognevoi. [8]

  • Aleksandr Sveshnikov, State Russian Choir/USSR Academic Russian Choir, Klara Korkan (mezzo-soprano), Konstantin Ognevoi (tenor), 1965, Melodiya/Yedang
  • Karl Linke, C. Ludwig Pichler, Johannes-Damascenus Choir, Essen joined by the Choir of the Papal Russian College, Rome, 1967, Christophorus
  • Vladislav Chernushenko, Leningrad Glinka Choir/St. Petersburg Cappella, 1978, Chant du Monde
  • Georgi Robev, Bulgarian Choir "Svetoslav Obretenov", Natalia Peneva (alto), Todor Grigorov-Tres (tenor), 1978, Vanguard
  • Evgeni Svetlanov, Bulgarian Choir "Svetoslav Obretenov", 1983, Russian Disc
  • Valery Polyansky, Chamber Choir of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, Irina Arkhipova (Mezzo Soprano), Victor Rumantsev (Tenor), 1986, Melodiya/Moscow Studio Archives
  • Vladislav Chernushenko, St. Petersburg Cappella, Zhanna Polevtsova (mezzo-soprano), Sergei Rokozitsa (tenor), 1986, Chant du Monde/IML
  • Mstislav Rostropovich, Choral Arts Society of Washington, Maureen Forrester (mezzo-soprano), Gene Tucker (tenor), 1987, Erato,
  • Robert Shaw, The Robert Shaw Festival Singers, Karl Dent (tenor), 1989, Telarc
  • Matthew Best, Corydon Singers, Joya Logan (alto), John Bowen (tenor), 1990, Hyperion
  • Oleg Shepel, Voronezh State Institute of Arts Chamber Choir, Yelena Necheporenko (Mezzo Soprano), Alexander Zlobin (Tenor), Ruben Sevostyanov (Tenor), Alexander Nazarov (Bass), September 1991, Globe
  • David Hill, The Philharmonia Chorus, Sarah Fryer (Mezzo Soprano), Peter Butterfield (Tenor), 1993, Nimbus
  • Nikolai Korniev, St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, Vladimir Mostowoy (tenor), Olga Borodina (alto), 1993, Philips
  • Robin Gritton, Berlin Radio Chorus, Tatjana Sotin (alto), Thomas Kober (tenor), 1994, CPO
  • Tõnu Kaljuste, Swedish Radio Choir, Malena Emma (alto), Per Björslund (tenor), Nils Högman (tenor), January 1994, Virgin
  • Georgi Robev, Bulgarian National Choir, 1994, Capriccio
  • William Hall, William Hall Master Chorale, Jonathan Mack (tenor), 1995, Klavier
  • Alexei Pouzakov, Choir of St Nicholas Church Tolmachi, Tatiana Gerange (alto), Dmitri Borisov (tenor), Nikolai Sokolov (archpriest), 1997, Boheme
  • Stephen Cleobury, Choir of King's College, Cambridge, Jan Lochmann (Bass), Richard Eteson (Tenor), Margaret Cameron (Alto), James Gilchrist (Tenor), 1998, EMI
  • Karen P. Thomas, Seattle Pro Musica, Yelena Posrednikov (Alto), Stuart Lutzenhiser (Tenor), Misha Myznikov (Baritone), 1998
  • Yevhen Savchuk, Ukrainian National Capella "Dumka", Mykhaylo Tyshchenko (Tenor), Olga Borusene (Soprano), Yuri Korinnyk (Tenor), 2000, Regis/Brilliant Classics
  • Howard Arman, Leipzig Radio Chorus, Klaudia Zeiner (Alto), Mikhail Agafonov (Tenor), Lew Maidarschewski (Bass), 2000, Berlin Classics
  • Jaroslav Brych, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, 2001, Praga
  • Nikolai Korniev, St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, 2002, Pentatone
  • Dale Warland, Dale Warland Singers, 2003, Rezound
  • Eric-Olof Söderström, Finnish National Opera Chorus, Raissa Palmu (soprano), Erja Wimeri (contralto), Eugen Antoni (tenor), c. 2004, Naxos
  • Paul Hillier, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Vladimir Miller (Bass), Iris Oja (Alto), Mati Turi and Tiit Kogerman (Tenor), 2004, Harmonia Mundi
  • Nigel Short, Tenebrae, Frances Jellard (Alto), Paul Badley (Tenor), 2004, Signum U.k.
  • Marcus Creed, SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, 2007, Hänssler


  1. ^ Francis Maes, tr. Arnold J. Pomerans, Erica Pomerans, A History of Russian Music: From Kamarinskaya to Babi Yar, University of California Press, 2002, p. 206
  2. ^ Rachmaninov's All Night Vigil: Vespers
  3. ^ a b c Sergei Bertensson, Jay Leyda, Sophia Satina, Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music, Indiana University Press, 2001, p. 191
  4. ^ Sergei Bertensson, Jay Leyda, Sophia Satina, Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music, Indiana University Press, 2001, p. 190
  5. ^ Sergei Bertensson, Jay Leyda, Sophia Satina, Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music, Indiana University Press, 2001, p. 192
  6. ^ Svetlana Zvereva, tr. Stuart Campbell, Alexander Kastalsky: His Life and Music, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003, p. 204
  7. ^ Francis Maes, tr. Arnold J. Pomerans, Erica Pomerans, A History of Russian Music: From Kamarinskaya to Babi Yar, University of California Press, 2002, p. 206
  8. ^ Rachmaninoff Vespers/Concerto/Rhapsody

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "All-Night_Vigil_(Rachmaninoff)". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

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