The all-night vigil is celebrated on the eve of the main feasts of the Orthodox Church. Originally it lasted all night and consisted of three separate services to celebrate the beauty of the setting sun, and reflect on the spiritual light of Christ as the new light of the coming day and the eternal light of heaven.
Rachmaninov's setting of the vigil was written in 1915, in the middle of the First World War. He has used authentic znamenny (from the Slavonic znamia meaning "sign") chants in seven of the movements, with two movements employing Greek chants. The work is dedicated to the scholar StephanVasilevitch Smolenskywho introduced Rachmoninov to the repertoire of the church, however the composer's inspiration was as much politically motivated as spiritually and the composition was a powerful affirmation of nationalism during thewar. The title of the work is often translated as simply 'Vespers', however only the first six of the 15 movements are set from texts from the Russian Orthodox canonical hour of Vespers.
Calixa Lavallée Singers
Latvian Radio Choir
University of Guelph Chamber Choir
University of Manitoba Chamber Choir
Kaspar Putnins, conductor