Critic’s Choice

January 19, 2015 at 3:51 pm

By David Wright

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Don’t worry—if you attend the Cantata Singers’ Saturday performance in Cambridge of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, or the one a week later in Wellesley, you won’t miss your train home.

The great Russian composer-pianist’s setting of the hymns that dot the lengthy Russian Orthodox service clocks in at just about 75 minutes of profoundly moving a capella choral music.  In it, the ancient tradition of Orthodox chant filters through the rich imagination of a late-Romantic master of opera, symphony, and concerto.

A favorite work of the composer himself, the All-Night Vigil—sometimes referred to as Vespers—made a deep impression on listeners at its 1915 premiere in wartime Moscow, only to be suppressed by the antireligious Bolshevik Revolution two years later.  Only in the last decade or two has this work begun to take its rightful place in the concert repertoire of Russia and the world.

With these choral concerts and last November’s performances by Andris Nelsons and the BSO of Rachmaninoff’s other favorite, his choral symphony The Bells, Boston audiences are getting to hear this popular composer at the height of his powers and at his most uncompromisingly Russian.

Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil will be performed 8 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge, and 8 p.m. January 31 at Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley. cantatasingers.org617-868-5885.

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