Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, but What Context?

I write this knowing that I still do not completely have a topic picked out. I know that I want to research Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, but, due to my lack of knowledge of Orthodoxy and Russian history, I was not sure what I would find. A quick Google search led me to ask more questions that required more research. How religious was Rachmaninoff himself? How were the growing tensions between the church and state reflected in this music? The All-Night Vigil was written in two weeks, and two years later, was banned from its home country, due to its religious nature. However, Rachmaninoff wrote this without specifying whether the vespers were meant to be performed in a sacred setting or a concert hall.

A search in Catalyst proved a bit challenging, only due to the sheer amount of recordings of the All-Night Vigil that exist. Many articles are reviews of recordings or concerts. I found a dissertation by Alice Generalow, which provides context within the Russian Orthodox Church, and within the history of Russia, and also within Rachmaninoff’s own life.

As I continue to hone in on a topic, I will decide what sort of lense through which I want to look at this piece of music. If I place within a much larger context, like the post-World War I state of the USSR, I may be getting too far away from study of the piece itself. If I place it within the context of Rachmaninoff’s life, I may not find enough information to fill a five minute podcast.

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