Music for Vespers

This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.  From Sergei Rachmaninoff's Solemn Vespers, this is the Nunc dimittis, the Song of Simeon, which we say or sing every night at Evening Prayer.  It goes like this:

Lord, you now have set your servant free, to got in peace as you have promised;  for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: a light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel

In addition to being wonderfully beautiful, this piece also features the lowest of the low bass notes at the end.  For that reason, there are not that many successful recordings/performances of this piece.    Rachmaninoff hoped it would be sung at his funeral, but it was not.  Perhaps the appropriate singers were not available.

This recording from Robert Shaw's Festival Singers, performed in Quercy, France, is the best I've ever heard.  If you like it, bookmark it and return to it for evening prayer whenever you can.


Perpetua said…
Rachmaninov's Vespers is one of my all-time favourite music works, Penny. I was introduced to it by DD and fell totally in love with it and now have two different recordings, but not this one, which is also excellent.
Ooh, what recordings do you have?
Perpetua said…
The one that hooked me is an old recording now and I first had it on a cassette tape copy from DD. It was made by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir in 1986 and was released on CD in 1995. It is unbelievably beautiful.

I asked DS for it for Christmas one year, but it was no longer available, so he bought me another recording (according to the reviews, the best available then) by the Saint Petersburg Capella and issued on the Harmonia Mundi label in 1992. It too is wonderful, but slightly different. I finally managed to get a CD of my beloved first recording via Amazon from a bookseller in Paris!

I now listen to both, one because I know it almost by heart and it was my first introduction to this glorious music and the other because it's beautiful too and DS went to such trouble to find the best alternative for me. Isn't it wonderful what significance inanimate objects can gain from the love of those who gave them?
Thanks! I'll be on the lookout. You are right that the first hearing of a piece of music often becomes your favorite! And it is wonderful how love infuses "items" with something special.