Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
(arr. Richard Balcombe)
Paul Watkins, solo cello
In the years following his death, Rachmaninov was much maligned by certain critics (the notoriously disparaging entry in the 5th Edition of Groves Dictionary (1954) that his music "is not likely to last and musicians never regarded it with much favour" being a case in point). But forty years later, it is recognised that Rachmaninov was a truly great Russian composer who provided the perfect link between the 19th century romanticism of Tchaikovsky and the 20th century modernism of Shostakovich.
Rachmaninov's symphonies, concertos and choral works have become cornerstones of the repertoire, as indeed have his solo piano pieces and songs. Among the latter is the wordless Vocalise of 1912 - a melisma of sound for soprano voice and piano accompaniment. Rachmaninov himself made an orchestral arrangement of this music and recorded it in the days of 78s with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The continuous, heartfelt melody is imbued with typical Rachmaninov melancholy and nostalgia, and in Richard Balcombe's arrangement would seem as if tailor-made for an orchestra of top-flight cellists.
(c) Edward Johnson