Rachmaninov: Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
Rachmaninov’s most famous setting of texts from the Russian Orthodox Church is undoubtedly his ‘All-Night Vigil’ (or ‘Vespers’). But his lesser-known ‘Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom’ is an equally powerful musical exploration of what is equivalent to the Sunday Eucharist service of the Western church. Composed some five years before the ‘All-Night Vigil’, it differs from the latter work in that it not only includes more of the responsorial parts of the service, but binds the whole work together harmonically so that it makes a continuous and satisfying musical whole. Designed as much for the concert hall as for the church, the work constitutes a veritable ‘symphony for voices’: a remarkable combination of contours derived from Russian chants with Rachmaninov’s well-known skill at employing the gamut of Romantic gestures.