All-Night Vigil
The All-Night Vigil Opus 37, is an a cappella
A cappella
A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

 composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

written and premiered in 1915. It consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox All-night vigil
All-night vigil
The All-night vigil is a service of the Eastern Orthodox Church consisting of an aggregation of the three canonical hours of Vespers, Matins, and the First Hour...

ceremony. It has been praised as Rachmaninoff's finest achievement and "the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church". It was one of Rachmaninoff's two favorite compositions along with The Bells
The Bells (Rachmaninoff)
The Bells , Op. 35, is a choral symphony by Sergei Rachmaninoff, written in 1913. The words are from the poem The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe, very freely translated into Russian by the symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont. The traditional Gregorian melody Dies Irae is used frequently throughout the work...

, and the composer requested that one of its movements (the fifth) be sung at his funeral. 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
Vespers is the evening prayer service in the Western Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours...


Composition and Performance History

Rachmaninoff composed the All-Night Vigil in less than two weeks in January and February 1915. The first performance was given in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 on March 10 of that year, partly to benefit the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n war effort. Nikolai Danilin conducted the all-male Moscow Synodal Choir
Moscow Synodal Choir
The Moscow Synodal Choir , founded 1721, was the choir attached to the Moscow Synodal School prior to its dissolution and merger into the choral faculty of the Moscow Conservatory in 1919. The choir was revived in 1999.- History :...

 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. However the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 and the rise of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 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". It has been written that "no composition represents the end of an era so clearly as this liturgical work".


The All-Night Vigil is perhaps notable as one of two liturgical settings (the other being the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom , Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic...

) by a composer who had stopped attending church services. As required by the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

, Rachmaninoff based ten of the fifteen sections on chant
Chant is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, often primarily on one or two pitches called reciting tones. Chants may range from a simple melody involving a limited set of notes to highly complex musical structures Chant (from French chanter) is the rhythmic speaking or singing...

. 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 - a chant developed in Kiev in the 16th and 17th centuries(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
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

; 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
Asparagus officinalis is a spring vegetable, a flowering perennialplant species in the genus Asparagus. It was once classified in the lily family, like its Allium cousins, onions and garlic, but the Liliaceae have been split and the onion-like plants are now in the family Amaryllidaceae and...

 at Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

!" Nevertheless, he did find them. I knew the voices of my countrymen...


Church Slavonic Latin Alphabet English
1 Приидите, поклонимся Priidite, Poklonimsya Come, Let Us Worship
2 Благослови, душе моя (греческого роспева) Blagoslovi, Dushe Moya Praise the Lord, O My Soul
Psalm 104
Psalm 104 is a poem from the Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible, describing the ongoing act of God continuously bringing the world into existence. German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder remarked, "It is worth studying the Hebrew language for ten years in order to read Psalm 104 in the original"...

 (Greek Chant)
3 Блажен муж Blazhen Muzh Blessed is the Man
4 Свете тихий (киевского роспева) Svete Tikhyi O Gentle Light
Phos Hilaron
Phos Hilaron is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in New Testament Greek. Often referred to by its Latin title Lumen Hilare it has been translated into English as Hail Gladdening Light or O Gladsome/Joyous Light. It is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside of the Bible...

 (Kiev Chant)
5 Ныне отпущаеши (киевского роспева) Nyne Otpushchayeshi Lord, Now Lettest Thou
Nunc dimittis
The Nunc dimittis is a canticle from a text in the second chapter of Luke named after its first words in Latin, meaning 'Now dismiss...'....

 (Kiev Chant)
6 Богородице Дево, радуйся Bogoroditsye Devo, Raduisya Rejoice, O Virgin (Hail Mary
Hail Mary
The Angelic Salutation, Hail Mary, or Ave Maria is a traditional biblical Catholic prayer asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Hail Mary is used within the Catholic Church, and it forms the basis of the Rosary...

7 Шестопсалмие (alternate: Slava V Vyshnikh Bogu) The Six Psalms (alternate: Glory To God in the Highest)
8 Хвалите имя Господне (знаменного роспева) Khvalite Imya Gospodne Praise the Name of the Lord (Znamenny Chant)
9 Благословен еси Господи (знаменного роспева) Blagosloven Yesi, Gospodi Blessed Art Thou, O Lord (Znamenny Chant)
10 Воскресение Христово видевше Voskreseniye Khristovo Videvshe Having Beheld the Resurrection
11 Величит душа моя Господа Velichit Dusha Moya Gospoda My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord
The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

12 Славословие великое (знаменного роспева) (alternate: Slava V Vyshnikh Bogu) The Great Doxology
A doxology is a short hymn of praises to God in various Christian worship services, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns...

 (Znamenny Chant) (alternate: Glory to God in the Highest)
13 Тропарь: Днесь спасение (знаменного роспева) Dnes Spaseniye Miru Byst Troparion
A troparion in Byzantine music and in the religious music of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas. The word probably derives from a diminutive of the Greek tropos...

: Today Salvation is Come (Znamenny Chant)
14 Тропарь: Воскрес из гроба (знаменного роспева) Voskres Iz Groba Troparion
A troparion in Byzantine music and in the religious music of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas. The word probably derives from a diminutive of the Greek tropos...

: Thou Didst Rise from the Tomb (Znamenny Chant)
15 Взбранной Воеводе (греческого роспева) Vzbrannoy Voyevode 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
Melodiya is a Russian record label. It was the state-owned major record company/label of the Soviet Union.-History:It was established in 1964 as the "All-Union Gramophone Record Firm of the USSR Ministry of Culture Melodiya"...

 label in 1965. Because of Soviet anti-religious policies
Religion in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion and its replacement with atheism. To that end, the communist regime confiscated religious property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools...

, 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. The Sveshnikov recording was first released in the United States in 1973 on the Melodiya-Angel label. The March, 1974 Stereo Review noted that Angel's general manager Robert E. Myers
Robert E. Myers
Robert E. Myers is a partner of the , a private equity firm based in Omaha, NE. Mr. Myers is responsible for evaluating acquisition opportunities, structuring and financing deals, and consummating transactions. Mr. Myers also assists with existing portfolio management. In addition Mr. Myers spent...

 "tracked down the recording" and "had to prevail rather heavily on the Soviet powers that be to make it part of their trade agreement with Angel.
  • Aleksandr Sveshnikov, State Russian Choir/USSR Academic Russian Choir, Klara Korkan (mezzo-soprano), Konstantin Ognevoi (tenor), 1965, Melodiya/Yedang, 1973 Melodiya-Angel (SRB-4124)
  • 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
    Valery Polyansky
    Valery Polyansky is a Russian orchestral and choral conductor.-External links:*...

    , Chamber Choir of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, Irina Arkhipova (Mezzo Soprano), Victor Rumantsev (Tenor), Yuri Wichniakov (Basso profundo) 1986, Melodiya/Moscow Studio Archives
  • Vladislav Chernushenko, St. Petersburg Cappella, Zhanna Polevtsova (mezzo-soprano), Sergei Rokozitsa (tenor), 1986, Chant du Monde/IML
  • Mstislav Rostropovich
    Mstislav Rostropovich
    Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, KBE , known to close friends as Slava, was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He was married to the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya. He is widely considered to have been the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of...

    , Choral Arts Society of Washington, Maureen Forrester
    Maureen Forrester
    Maureen Kathleen Stewart Forrester, was a Canadian operatic contralto.-Life and career:Maureen Forrester was born and grew up in a poor section of Montreal, Quebec. She was one of four children to Thomas Forrester, a Scottish cabinetmaker, and his Irish-born wife, the former May Arnold. She...

     (mezzo-soprano), Gene Tucker (tenor), 1987, Erato,
  • Robert Shaw
    Robert Shaw (conductor)
    Robert Shaw was an American conductor most famous for his work with his namesake Chorale, with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Shaw received 14 Grammy awards, four ASCAP awards for service to contemporary music, the first Guggenheim Fellowship...

    , 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
    David Hill
    -Politicians:* David B. Hill , Governor of the U.S. state of New York, 1885–1891, U.S. Senator from New York, 1892–1897* David Jayne Hill , politician from New York, United States Assistant Secretary of State, 1898–1903...

    , The Philharmonia Chorus, Sarah Fryer (Mezzo Soprano), Peter Butterfield
    Peter Butterfield
    Peter Butterfield is a Canadian conductor and classical tenor. In 2003 he founded the VancouverVoices and since 2009 he has been the director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir. As a singer he has performed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America; working primarily as a concert singer since the...

     (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
    Tõnu Kaljuste
    Tõnu Kaljuste is an Estonian conductor.Born in Tallinn, Kaljuste is the child of Heino Kaljuste , an Estonian choral conductor, and Lia Kaljuste, a radio journalist. Tõnu sang in his father's choirs as a child, and graduated from the Tallinn Music High School in 1971...

    , Swedish Radio Choir
    Swedish Radio Choir
    The Swedish Radio Choir is a professional classical choir. It is funded by Sveriges Radio, the public radio broadcasting company of Sweden. The choir consists of 32 singers, currently led by conductor Peter Dijkstra.-Conductors:...

    , 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
    Stephen Cleobury
    Stephen Cleobury CBE is an English organist and conductor. He was organ scholar at St John's College, Cambridge and sub-organist of Westminster Abbey before becoming Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in 1979...

    , Choir of King's College, Cambridge
    King's College, Cambridge
    King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

    , Jan Lochmann (Bass), Richard Eteson (Tenor), Margaret Cameron (Alto), James Gilchrist (Tenor), 1998, EMI
  • Karen P. Thomas
    Karen P. Thomas
    Karen P. Thomas, composer and conductor, is the Artistic Director and Conductor of Seattle Pro Musica and Director of Music at University Unitarian Church. With Seattle Pro Musica she has produced six CD recordings, and has received the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the...

    , Seattle Pro Musica
    Seattle Pro Musica
    Seattle Pro Musica is an American choir, based in Seattle, Washington, performing under the direction of conductor and artistic director Karen P. Thomas. Seattle Pro Musica is widely considered to be one of the finest ensembles in the Pacific Northwest, and has received international recognition...

    , Yelena Posrednikov (Alto), Stuart Lutzenhiser (Tenor), Misha Myznikov (Baritone), 1998
  • Alexander Govorov, Accordance (male choir), 2000, Dmitri Popov (tenor), Vladimir Pasyukov (Basso Profundo) Transcribed for a male choir by Alexander Govorov.
  • Yevhen Savchuk, Ukrainian National Capella "Dumka", Mykhaylo Tyshchenko (Tenor), Olga Borusene (Soprano), Yuri Korinnyk (Tenor), 2000, Regis/Brilliant Classics
  • Howard Arman
    Howard Arman
    Howard Arman is an English choral conductor and opera director. He won the Handel Music Prize of the Handel Festival, Halle, in 1996, shaped the festival's orchestra and conducted operas of George Frideric Handel...

    , 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
    Dale Warland is an American conductor, composer, founder of the Grammy-nominated Dale Warland Singers, scholar, teacher, choral consultant, and renowned champion of contemporary choral composers.-Professional Biography :...

    , Dale Warland Singers
    Dale Warland Singers
    The Dale Warland Singers was a 40-person choral group in the United States, based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Founded in 1972 and conducted by Dale Warland, the ensemble tackled a repertoire of difficult, complex, and beautiful polyphonic works for both a cappella...

    , 2003, Rezound
  • Eric-Olof Söderström, Finnish National Opera Chorus, Raissa Palmu (soprano), Erja Wimeri (contralto), Eugen Antoni (tenor), c. 2004, Naxos
  • Paul Hillier
    Paul Hillier
    Paul Douglas Hillier is a conductor, music director and baritone. He specializes in early music and contemporary art music, especially that by composers Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford and the Guildhall School of Music, beginning his professional career while a...

    , Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
    Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
    The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is a professional choir based in Estonia. It was founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste, who was its conductor for twenty years. In 2001, Paul Hillier followed Kaljuste's tenure, becoming the EPCC's principal conductor and artistic director until September 2008,...

    , 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
    Marcus Creed
    Marcus Creed is an English conductor.Born in Eastbourne, Sussex , he was educated at King's College in Cambridge, Christ Church in Oxford, and Guildhall School in London. He moved to Germany in 1976 and worked firstly as a coach and chorusmaster at the Deutsche Oper Berlin...

    , SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, 2007, Hänssler

External links

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