Vocalise is one of the most beautiful melodies ever. Following a video in which the duo formed by cellist Pier Paolo Maccarrone and pianist Gabriele Tomasello plays vocalise.

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Listening guide

📖 🇬🇧 “Vocalise” is a song by Sergei Rachmaninoff, composed and published in 1912 as the last of his 14 Songs or 14 Romances, Op. 34. Written for high voice (soprano or tenor) with piano accompaniment, it contains no words, but is sung using any one vowel of the singer’s choosing (see also vocalise). It was dedicated to soprano Antonina Nezhdanova.
Although the original publication stipulates that the song may be sung by either soprano or tenor voice, it is usually performed by a soprano. It is sometimes transposed into a variety of keys, allowing performers to choose a vocal range more suitable to their natural voice, so that artists who may not have the higher range of a soprano can perform the song.

Guia de escucha

➡️ https://youtu.be/VEiOBsv4kZU

📖 🇪🇦 “Vocalise” es una canción de Sergei Rachmaninoff, compuesta y publicada en 1912 como la última de sus 14 canciones o 14 romances, op.  34.  Escrito para voz alta (soprano o tenor) con acompañamiento de piano, no contiene palabras, pero se canta usando cualquier vocal de la elección del cantante (ver también vocalización).  Fue dedicado a la soprano Antonina Nezhdanova.
Aunque la publicación original estipula que la canción puede ser cantada por soprano o voz de tenor, generalmente es interpretada por una soprano.  A veces se transpone en una variedad de teclas, lo que permite a los intérpretes elegir un rango vocal más adecuado para su voz natural, de modo que los artistas que no tengan el rango más alto de una soprano puedan interpretar la canción.

📖 🇮🇹 “Vocalise” è una canzone di Sergei Rachmaninoff, composta e pubblicata nel 1912 come ultima delle sue 14 canzoni o 14 romanzi, Op. 34. [1]  Scritto per voce alta (soprano o tenore) con accompagnamento di piano, non contiene parole, ma è cantato usando una vocale qualsiasi della scelta del cantante (vedi anche vocalise).  Era dedicato alla soprano Antonina Nezhdanova.
  Sebbene la pubblicazione originale stabilisca che la canzone può essere cantata da una voce soprano o tenore, di solito è eseguita da un soprano.  A volte viene trasposto in una varietà di tasti, consentendo agli artisti di scegliere una gamma vocale più adatta alla loro voce naturale, in modo che gli artisti che potrebbero non avere la gamma più alta di un soprano possano eseguire la canzone.

➡️ https://youtu.be/VEiOBsv4kZU

Sergei Vasilievev Rachmaninov (Russian: Серге́й Васильевич Рахма́нинов ?; other transliteration in use: Rachmaninoff; estate of Semenovo, April 1, 1873 – Beverly Hills, March 28, 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist and Russian orchestra conductor . World famous, he is considered one of the greatest Russian composers and pianists ever. Rachmaninov considered himself primarily a composer rather than a pianist, although the development of his career – in some ways, at least initially, rather tormented – seemed to prove otherwise.


Sergej lived from early childhood surrounded by music. At the age of four he learned to play the piano thanks to his mother Ljubov Petrovna. When Sergej was born, his cousin Aleksandr Ziloti was already an established pianist. Two other brothers would later join the already large family: a baby girl named Varvara – who died shortly after birth – and a baby boy named Arkadij.

At the age of six, Rachmaninov had her first piano lesson with Anna Ornatskaija, from the St. Petersburg conservatory. Impressed by Rachmaninov’s natural ability on the piano, in 1881, the teacher recommended him for a scholarship to the same conservatory. So it was that at nine years Sergei formally began to take lessons. However, young Sergey preferred leisure and outdoor games to study.

His father, meanwhile, had squandered all the family assets leaving his wife Ljubov and the children in precarious conditions. Without money and with the threat that his son might be expelled from the conservatory, Ljubov asked for help from his cousin Aleksandr Ziloti. Thus it was decided that Rachmaninov should continue studying at the conservatory; shortly afterwards, therefore, the young man was sent to Moscow to become a pupil of Nikolai Sergeevich Zverev.

The move to Moscow

Zverev was reputed to be a rather demanding teacher and his intense daily study plans made Rachmaninov become calmer and more thoughtful. This was followed by passionate musical evenings attended by many of the Russian musicians of the time. Zverev also hosted the composer Pëtr Il’ič Čajkovskij, with whom Rachmaninov immediately forged a strong relationship and from whom he will receive a very important influence.

The Moscow conservatory offered Rachmaninov the first chance to express himself as a composer. Under the directives of Sergei Taneev and Anton Arenskij, he was able to deepen the technique of counterpoint and harmony and to start writing his compositions. Of these, the best will be the symphonic poem Prince Rostislav and the first concert for piano and orchestra; but Rachmaninov also wrote some pieces for solo piano and some songs at that time.

The beginnings as a composer

The new “need” to compose shown by Rachmaninov upset Zverev, who saw this as a waste of the talent expressed up to then on the keyboard. The two never came to an agreement and Rachmaninov moved into the class of his cousin Aleksandr Ziloti. In 1887 he completed the scores of the Andante and Scherzo in D minor for orchestra and of the Scherzo in F major for orchestra in Moscow.

Subsequently, however, he decided to abandon the conservatory asking to postpone the final exam by one year. Demonstrating great piano skills, he graduated in 1891, just one year earlier than expected. He went on to graduate in composition a year later, taking to the exam a work entitled Aleko who wrote in fifteen days under cloister (specific test of the composition diploma), obtaining full marks. In a short time, after graduation, he wrote the Prelude in C sharp minor, to which he will remain indissolubly tied throughout his life.
It was the publisher Karl Gutheil who approached the now emerging Rachmaninov, who was then still looking for someone to publish his compositions. Rachmaninov sold some of his compositions to Gutheil, including the opera Aleko. And it was precisely to Gutheil himself who sold the rights of the Prelude in do Diesis Minore. Unfortunately for him, it was not protected by an international copyright, so much so that, despite it being one of his best known works for piano, it only earned him forty rubles. Gutheil will remain the publisher of Rachmaninov until his death in 1914.

With a new publisher, and renewed energies, Rachmaninov became more and more known all over the world, both for his compositions and for concert performances; even his works became more and more known and represented, so as to attract the attention of journalists. In particular, that of the music critic and theorist Cezar ‘Antonovič Kjui (one of the members of the “Group of Five”), who on one occasion visited Rachmaninov in Ivanovka, his property about 500 km south-east of Moscow. During the visit, Kjui composed a short melody which he submitted to Rachmaninov’s judgment. The dry and negative opinion expressed by the composer on the quality of the composition (expressed in order not to unnecessarily deceive the critic), was resolved by Kjui’s continuous writing from that moment on, very critical notes on Rachmaninov’s musical production.

In January 1895 Rachmaninov began to think about her first major orchestral work, the First Symphony. The composition of the work took eight months, so that it was completed only in late August, in Ivanovka’s residence. Only eighteen months later the opera was first performed in St. Petersburg, just five days before the composer’s twenty-fourth birthday. However, the performance turned out to be a disaster and the young Rachmaninov was almost destroyed. Master Glazunov had badly directed the execution and Rachmaninov did not bluntly say to the master: “I am surprised that a man of such great talent can manage so badly.”

Rachmaninov lacked confidence in his qualities as a composer after the “disaster” of the first symphony. The following years, however, were not without some musical activity: in fact, he obtained a prominent position directing for a private Moscow theater managed by Savva Mamontov. Here Rachmaninov directed performances of Gluck, Serov, father of the painter Valentin, Bizet (of whom he directed Carmen) and Tchaikovsky (The lady of spades).

Rachmaninov and his dog Levko in 1899.

His talent as conductor was now recognized by everyone and as such he made his debut in London in 1899 with his fantasy for orchestra La rock (Rachmaninov), together with his Prelude in C sharp minor and Elegia, from Op. 3.

Composing music continued to be difficult for Rachmaninov. Many of his friends tried to help him regain his desire to compose, and not even a meeting with his old acquaintance, Tolstoy, was successful. It was also for this reason that the musician found himself having to resort to the care of Nikolaj Dahl, a specialist in hypnotherapy. There is a hypothesis that Rachmaninov would have been hypnotized to regain self-confidence, but he and Dahl are more likely to have spoken predominantly about music and art. Certainly these conversations, as well as the solidarity of his closest friends, gave Rachmaninov a new inner peace. Dahl is dedicated to the second concert for piano and orchestra, which he began composing in 1900 and which he was able to present in October of the following year with great success. The concert was followed by various compositions such as the second Suite for two pianos, the cantata Primavera, on a text by Nikolaj Alekseevič Nekrasov, and the sonata for cello and piano, dedicated to his friend Anatolij Brandukov.

In 1902 he married his cousin Natalija Satina. For this marriage it was necessary to obtain a special permit and to resort to the celebration officiated by a military chaplain. The following year is the birth of the first daughter Irina. Hired by the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1904, Rachmaninov also distinguished himself as an opera director. For the same theater he wrote two operas: Francesca da Rimini and Il cavaliere avaro. In 1906 he stayed in Italy, in particular in Florence and Marina di Pisa.

The birth of the second daughter, Tatjana, occurred at a time when the composer decided to move with his family to Dresden, Germany. Here he composed the symphonic poem The Island of the Dead, inspired by a version of the famous painting of the same title by Arnold Böcklin, as well as the first piano sonata. He also began to work on another work, Monna Vanna (which he had to leave unfinished because, without the knowledge of Rachmaninov and his librettist Slonov, the rights of the text on which it was based had been transferred by the author to another composer) and second symphony, dedicated to Sergei Taneev, whose first performance, which took place in St. Petersburg under the direction of the composer himself on January 26, 1908, immediately received the approval of the public and critics.

Rachmaninov corrects the drafts of the Third Concert in Ivanovka

His career as a composer had now reached the pinnacle of success in both Russia and England and the United States. He had chosen New York for the debut of his third piano concert, which took place on November 28, 1909. The American tour, crowned with great success, would last about three months. On January 9, 1910 he performed his music at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. On January 16, 1910 Rachmaninov performed her new concert under the direction of Gustav Mahler. He also received many job offers, but the nostalgia for Russia prevailed and the composer decided to return to his native land as soon as possible. The years that followed brought new developments in his compositional style. It was during a stay in Rome that the composition of one of his favorite works began, the choral symphony Le campane, based on a readaptation of the symbolist poet Konstantin Dmitrievič Bal’mont of the homonymous poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. In 1911 the score of the Études-Tableaux, Op. 33 nn. Ended in Moscow. 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9 for piano.

Russian revolution and migration to the United States

The motions that led to the October Revolution of 1917 made the general atmosphere not congenial to the character of the composer. During those feverish days he worked on various projects, including a complete revision of the first piano concert. Accepting a providential offer for a series of concerts to be held in Scandinavia, Rachmaninov and his family members decided to leave Russia’s turmoil. They momentarily abandoned all the properties, waiting to return when the situation calmed down. The fall of events, with the killing of the imperial Romanov family, made the composer decide differently: from Copenhagen Rachmaninov reached Oslo with his wife Natalija and his two daughters. They crossed the Atlantic to finally reach the United States on November 11, 1918. Although nothing was finally decided at the time, this proved to be the first step in an exile that would last a lifetime. Rachmaninov would bring with him the pain of detachment from the mother earth until his death, and this factor decisively conditioned his will to continue composing. Initially with a small repertoire – composed of his works and some of Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikovsky – he accepted a contract with Steinway & Sons and subsequently with the Victor Company for a large number of concerts. He spent the next twenty five years expanding his repertoire and performing all over the world. Initially the concert career was also undertaken to ensure an adequate standard of living for the family, since all the family properties had remained in Russia. At the Metropolitan he returned to concert in 1919 and in 1920 performed the second concert for piano and orchestra by Liszt. Within a few years Rachmaninov managed to accumulate a fair fortune. Already in 1921 he bought a house and the new economic ease brought him back to the projects left interrupted, including the fourth concert for piano and orchestra. In the United States, the Rachmaninov family continued to live according to the traditions of Russian culture. Guests of the family were members of the large community of Russian immigrants and the composer thought of a rapprochement with Europe.

In 1929 he recorded his second concert for piano and orchestra with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, which will be awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1976. In 1932 he purchased land in Hertenstein, a hamlet of Weggis, on Lake Lucerne, where he built Villa Senar (the name derives from the initials of the composer and his wife, Natalija). This place would have replaced in his intentions the Ivanovka dacha, where he used to stay in Russia. In Switzerland Rachmaninov and the family spent every summer until 1939, and here the composer could find the right atmosphere to compose. From her Swiss residence Rachmaninov also made numerous trips aboard her car to Paris, Italy or Germany. In 1934 he recorded his Rhapsody on a Paganini theme with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, which will be awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1979.

Old age and death à

Konstantin Somov Portrait of
Sergei Rachmaninov (1925)
Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow

On 23 August 1939 Rachmaninov left Europe definitively and never saw her daughter Tatiana again, who lived in France. He moved to Los Angeles where numerous Russian immigrants already lived, including Igor Stravinsky. In 1940 in Huntington, in the state of New York, he began composing his last song, Symphonic Dances, which contains various quotes from previous works, including the first symphony, considered lost at the time. In late 1942 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. On February 17, 1943, Rachmaninov held his last concert as a pianist.

He died of melanoma on March 28, 1943 on Beverly Hills, California while the world was experiencing the tragedy of the Second World War. For this reason, it was not even possible to grant his desire to be buried in Switzerland, at Villa Senar. He currently rests at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, where he was buried on June 1st.

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