Evgeny Svetlanov conducts Rachmaninov's The Bells

Legendary performances by Svetlanov — State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

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State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

Program notes

In 1907, Rachmaninov received an anonymous letter that led him to create what many consider to be his secular choral masterpiece. Experience The Bells in a captivating performance conducted by one of the most celebrated interpreters of the Russian symphonic repertoire, 20th-century maestro Evgeny Svetlanov.

It was a young Moscow Conservatory cello student, Maria Danilova, who anonymously sent Rachmaninov a copy of Konstantin Balmont’s Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Bells with the suggestion that it would work well set to music. She could not have had better timing: at that time Rachmaninov had been looking for a subject for a choral symphony to follow up his recent cantata Spring. The resulting work—for large orchestra, soloists, and mixed choir—is an incredibly evocative interpretation of Poe’s original work: structured in four movements (“The Silver Sleigh Bells”, “The Mellow Wedding Bells”, “The Loud Alarm Bells”, and The Mournful Iron Bells”) it explores life from its beginning to end.

The Evgeny Svetlanov Foundation has kindly provided this program to us as part of its celebrations of the maestro's 90th birthday.

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