The Bells (Rachmaninoff)

The Bells (Rachmaninoff)

The Bells ( _ru. Колокола, "Kolokola"), Op. 35, is a choral symphony by Sergei Rachmaninoff, written in 1913. The words are from the poem "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe, very freely translated into Russian by the symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont. The traditional Gregorian melody "Dies Irae" is used frequently throughout the work. It was one of Rachmaninoff's two favorite compositions, along with his "All-Night Vigil", [Bertensson and Leyda, 191.] and is considered by some to be his secular choral masterpiece. [Harrison, 190.] Rachmaninoff called the work both a choral symphony and his Third Symphony shortly after writing it; however, he would later write a purely instrumental Third Symphony during his years in exile. [Steinberg, "Choral", 241.]


Rachmaninoff wrote to his friend Morozoff in December 1906, asking whether he could think of a suitable subject for a choral piece to follow his cantata "Spring". Nothing came of this request. However, while on a holiday in Rome, Italy early in 1907, Rachmaninoff received an anonymous letter containing a copy of Balmont's translation of "The Bells". The sender asked him to read the verses, suggesting they were suitable for musical setting and would especially appeal to him. (This suggestion was both extremely sensitive and opportune. [Harrison, 186.] It was only after the composer's death that the identity of the sender was found to have been Mariya Danilova, who was then a young cello student at the Moscow Conservatory. [Harrison, 193 ft. 1.] )

Nor was Rachmaninoff the only composer to whom Poe's verses would appeal. The English composer Joseph Holbrooke set "The Bells" in their original language for chorus and orchestra. His piece had been performed in Birmingham under conductor Hans Richter in 1906. [Harrison, 186-187.] Earlier, in Russia, Ostroglazoff had composed a one-act opera based on "The Masque of the Red Death" in 1896. Nikolai Tcherepnin would write a ballet on the same subject in 1922. Nikolai Myaskovsky composed his symphonic poem "Nevermore", based on "The Raven," in 1909. At the same time Rachmaninoff composed "The Bells", his compatriot Mikhail Gnissen was writing "The Conqueror Worm" for tenor and orchestra, based on Balmont's translation of "Ligeia." [Harrison, 187.]

Parallels to Tchaikovsky

Circumstantially and compositionally, "The Bells" draws parallels between its composer and his former mentor, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Coincidentally, Rachmaninoff wrote the symphony in Rome, Italy at the same desk Tchaikovsky had used to compose. [Maes, 203-204.] Compositionally, the four-movement mirroring of life from birth to death meant the finale would be a slow movement. In this and other ways, it is a counterpart to Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony, as well as to Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde". [Matthew-Walker, 74-75.] The fourth movement, with its image of the demonic bell-ringer, hearkens to the bedroom scene in "The Queen of Spades.Maes, 204.] The four movements are marked: 1) Allegro ma non tanto, 2) Lento, 3) Presto 4) Lento Lugubre.


* Bertensson, Sergey and Jay Leyda, with Sophia Satina, "Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music", {Bloomingale:Indiana University Press, 2001) ISBN n/a.
* Maes, Francis, tr. Arnold J. Pomerans and Erica Pomerans, "A History of Russian Music: From "Kamarinskaya "to" Babi Yar (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2002). ISBN 0-520-21815-9.
* Matthew-Walker, Robert, "Rachmaninoff" (London and New York: Omnibus Books, 1980). ISBN 0-89524-208-7.
* Steinberg, Michael, "Choral Masterworks" (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). ISBN to come.


External links

* [ Program notes]
* [ Kolokola and the Change of Poetic Meaning in Translation]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Bells (disambiguation) — The Bells may refer to:*The Bells, an 1849 poem by Edgar Allan Poe * The Bells (play) , an 1871 play by Leopold Davis Lewis *The Bells (Rachmaninoff), a choral symphony completed in 1913 by Sergei Rachmaninoff * The Bells (1911 film), a 1911 film …   Wikipedia

  • The Bells — is a heavily onomatopoeic poem by Edgar Allan Poe which was not published until after his death in 1849. It is perhaps best known for the diacopic repetition of the word bells. The poem has four parts to it; each part becomes darker and darker as …   Wikipedia

  • Rachmaninoff, Sergey — ▪ Russian musician Introduction in full  Sergey Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff , Rachmaninoff also spelled  Rakhmaninov , or  Rachmaninov  born March 20 [April 1, New Style], 1873, Oneg, near Semyonovo, Russia died March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills,… …   Universalium

  • The Seasons (Tchaikovsky) — The Seasons , Op. 37b (published with the French title Les saisons ) is a set of twelve short character pieces for solo piano by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 1893). The work is also sometimes heard in orchestral… …   Wikipedia

  • Sergei Rachmaninoff — Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoffref label|A|a|none ( ru. Сергей Васильевич Рахманинов, Sergej Vasil’evič Rakhmaninov , OldStyleDateDY|1 April|1873|20 March ndash; 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was one of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Piano Concerto No. 4 (Rachmaninoff) — Sergei Rachmaninoff completed his Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40 in 1926 and the work currently exists in three versions. Following its unsuccessful premiere he made cuts and other amendments before publishing it in 1928. With continued… …   Wikipedia

  • All-Night Vigil (Rachmaninoff) — For the liturgical service, see All night vigil The All Night Vigil ( ru. Всенощное бдение, Vsenoshchnoe bdenie ), Opus 37, is an a cappella choral composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff, written and premiered in 1915. It consists of settings of… …   Wikipedia

  • Prelude in C-sharp minor (Rachmaninoff) — Prelude in C sharp minor ( ru. Прелюдия), op. 3, no. 2, is one of Sergei Rachmaninoff s most famous compositions. It is a ternary (ABA) prelude in C sharp minor, 62 measures long, and part of a set of five pieces entitled Morceaux de Fantaisie… …   Wikipedia

  • Symphonic Dances (Rachmaninoff) — The Symphonic Dances , Op. 45, is an orchestral suite in three movements. Completed in 1940, it is Sergei Rachmaninoff s last composition. The work became an apropos summation of Rachmaninoff s compositional output in more ways than one.The work… …   Wikipedia

  • Edgar Allan Poe and music — The influence of Edgar Allan Poe on the art of music has been considerable and long standing, with the works, life and image of the horror fiction writer and poet inspiring composers and musicians from diverse genres for more than a century.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”