Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances Op 45

The Symphonic Dances, Op. 45, is an orchestral suite in three movements. Completed in 1940, it is Sergei Rachmaninoff's last composition. The work summarizes Rachmaninoff's compositional output. Rachmaninoff composed the Symphonic Dances four years after his Third Symphony, mostly at the Honeyman estate, "Orchard Point", in Centerport, New York, overlooking Long Island Sound. Its original name was Fantastic Dances, with movement titles of "Noon", "Twilight", and "Midnight". While the composer had written conductor Eugene Ormandy in late August 1940 that the piece was finished and needed only to be orchestrated, the manuscript for the full score bears completion dates of September and October 1940. It was premiered by Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, to whom it is dedicated, on January 7, 1941. The work is fully representative of the composer's later style with its curious, shifting harmonies, the almost Prokofiev-like grotesquerie of the outer movements and the focus on individual instrumental tone colors throughout (highlighted by his use of an alto saxophone in the opening dance). The opening three-note motif, introduced quietly but soon reinforced by heavily staccato chords and responsible for much of the movement's rhythmic vitality, is reminiscent of the Queen of Shemakha's theme in Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel, the only music by another composer that he had taken out of Russia with him in 1917. The Dances allowed him to indulge in a nostalgia for the Russia he had known, much as he had done in the Third Symphony, as well as to effectively sum up his lifelong fascination with ecclesiastical chants. In the first dance, he quotes the opening theme of his First Symphony, itself derived from motifs characteristic of Russian church music. In the finale he quotes both the Dies Irae and the chant "Blessed be the Lord" (Blagosloven yesi, Gospodi) from his All-Night Vigil.


VIDEO: Mariss Jansons St.Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra 

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