Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14
Composed: 1912; 1929
Length: c. 6 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: November 4, 1926, Walter Henry Rothwell conducting
Himself a virtuoso pianist of legendary abilities, Rachmaninoff is known today almost exclusively for his instrumental music. But he also completed three operas and composed a body of choral works and solo songs that is substantial in both quantity and quality.
A vocalise is basically a song without text, the voice part sustained on a single vowel sound. Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise was the last of a group of 14 songs that he completed in 1912 as Opus 34. This haunting, sinuous melody has been arranged for many different instruments, and the composer himself made this arrangement for orchestra.