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Rachmaninov Vespers: Why I Cried

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 by Inna Heasley 7 Comments

On September 7th, 2014 Choral Arts Philadelphia will perform one piece of music that holds an absolutely special place in my heart: Vespers (All Night Vigil, Op. 37) by Sergey Rachmaninov.

 

Besides cherishing a direct native connection to the Russian music and unsurpassed love for Sergey Rachmaninov as a person and a composer, I treasure this piece because it represents a life-altering discovery I made in my mid-20s .

 

During the first 24 years of my life in the Soviet Russia, after having studied classical music and its history at a full-time music school for eight years, I had no idea about the existence of the Vespers or any other sacred music by any other composer whatsoever! This is how well this information was locked away from public eye in the Soviet Union. And since I never knew to ask the question, I never looked for answers.

 

Fast forward now to the early 9o’s, my first few weeks in the United States where I was brought on a contract to interpret for a group of Russian dancers.  The day I got my first paycheck, I went to the Tower Records store (remember those?) to look for recordings of my favorite composers, including Rachmaninov and Bach.

 

As I searched the Bach and Rachmaninov sections, I came across some odd titles like St. Matthew Passion, B-Minor Mass, Vespers, The Bells. “What’s this?” – I said to myself in total bewilderment, because I knew every piece of music those guys ever composed. I had to buy the Vespers CD, out of curiosity (I now think it was actually a cassette tape – remember those?). I played it on my Walkman (remember those?)…  And I cried. I cried because I felt betrayed. Then I cried some more because life was SO MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL than I had imagined. Because the humanity had the gift of the Vespers all along!!!

Lighting the candles during All night vigil.

Lighting the candles during an All night vigil.

 

Ironically, that same year, late 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Christmas was finally officially announced as a national holiday in Russia. It was openly celebrated for the first time in over 70 years, on January 6, 1992.

 

This landmark event was followed by the arrival of massive country-wide restoration process of the entire Orthodox culture: from the beautiful architecture and commencement of industrial church bells production – to religious education, faith-based literature and declassification of archival church documents. And it inevitably meant that the Orthodox music, and with it all other sacred music, that had been muted in Russia for over 70 years was finally given back to the people it was written for.

 

The Rachmaninov Vespers was performed in a public concert in Moscow on that first Christmas Eve of 1992.

 

Every time I get to sing this work – and this will be my third time – it is a transcendental life event, an experience of the highest spiritual, physical, emotional and mental order which simply can’t be described in words.

 

Singing it here in the U.S. for the American audiences fills me with great honor and gratitude for their responsive energy, for their respect to this music and their thirst to hear more of it. And singing it with Choral Arts Philadelphia is going to be an amazing experience!

 

We performed it in 2012 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Here is my favorite excerpt:

 

IF YOU GO:
Gretna Music Festival

Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Pre-concert talk by the festival founder Carl Ellenberger at 6:45 PM

More information at www.choralarts.com

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7 Responses

  1. JACK GALGON says:

    Gorgeous presentation, Inna!!

  2. Allen Krantz says:

    I can hear Inna’s voice in this eloquent story. The Vespers is my favorite piece to play in the holiday season and this gives it a new depth and context for me. Thankyou.

  3. Rafail Barsky says:

    «Всенощное бдение” А.В.Рахманинова.
    Впервые «Всенощное бдение” С.В. Рахманинова было исполнено в Москве в 1915 году. После исполнения этого произведения 1926 году, был перерыв до 1982 года.
    Мне же, посчастливилось услышать его уже в Америке, в замечательном исполнении Choral Arts Philadelphia в 2012 году. Свои чувства и эмоции во время этого концерта, могу сравнить лишь с чувствами и эмоциями после прослушивания сонаты Б МИНОР Великого Баха (в том же исполнении).
    С большим удовольствием прочёл талантливо написанную статью Инны Лобановой. Глубокое знание времени, музыки и описание своих чувств, которые мы находим в статье Инны, помогают читателю понять не только творение Великого Рахманинова, но и отношение человека к музыке. Вы, знаете, когда я читал всё это, у меня тоже наворачивались слёзы…
    Статья прекрасно проиллюстрирована. Кроме хорошей фотографии в ней есть замечательный клип, который позволяет услышать не только отрывок из «Всенощного бдения», но и оценить голоса исполнителей.
    Спасибо Инна. Больших Вам творческих успехов.
    Рафаил Барский.

  4. Greg says:

    What a beautiful story! It’s so cool to know this different context when I hear the music. I’m amazed that the Russian government kept something this beautiful repressed!

  5. charles mathers says:

    “Vigil” A.V.Rahmaninova.
    For the first time, “Vigil” SV Rachmaninoff was performed in Moscow in 1915. After the execution of this work in 1926, there was a break until 1982.
    I just had the good fortune to hear him out in America, in a remarkable performance Choral Arts Philadelphia in 2012. Their feelings and emotions during this concert, can be compared only with feelings and emotions after listening to the sonata B MINOR Great Bach (in the same version).
    With great pleasure to read an article written by a talented Inna Lobanov. Thorough knowledge of the time, the music and the description of his feelings, that we find in the article Ina, help the reader to understand not only the creation of the Great Rachmaninoff, but also man’s relationship to music. You know, when I was reading all this, I also have dimmed with tears …
    Article beautifully illustrated. In addition to a good photo it is a wonderful clip that allows you to hear not only the passage of the “Vigil”, but also to evaluate the performer’s voice.
    Thank you Ina. Thank you success.
    Raphael Barsky.

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