The Masterworks Chorale takes on Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, in two concerts this weekend in San Mateo. Artistic Director and conductor Bryan Baker says the otherwise unreligious composer managed to capture “the essence of a human quality of spirituality that’s just wonderful.” The concerts are Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at St. Matthew Episcopal Church at 4:00 (remember to set your clocks back).
There’s more information about the concerts at the Masterworks Chorale website.
Bryan Baker says you can hear the historical ties to Russian religious music in the Vespers: “These old chants which have a deep connection with the Orthodox tradition. And it does indeed ask the low basses to go down, down, down, until they reach a low B-flat. I think it was Rachmaninoff who said they’re as rare as hens’ teeth, finding those low basses. But we have a few, so it’s really nice. We actually get a nice ground-shaking quality down in the lowest notes in the bass.” And they’re singing the work (sometimes known as the All-Night Vigil) in Church Slavonic. “Which is similar to Russian, but different,” Baker explains. “And so we have two people in the chorus who are… one’s a long-time Russian teacher, and one’s from Russia. And we’re also getting help from two people who are Russian choral directors, and have worked a lot on the Vespers.”