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Rachmaninov regarded his choral symphony The Bells Op.35 to be his greatest work, set to the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem is a representation of life, from the nimbleness of youth to the pain of age, and this symphony is divided into four movements, representing marriage, birth, terror, and death. The work is scored for Soprano, Tenor and Baritone soloists, with Choir and large Orchestra.
The first movement, subtitled The Silver Sleigh Bells, uses typically rich post-Romantic harmonies and is effervescent and joyous in mood, featuring a prominent Tenor part. The second, subtitled The Mellow Wedding Bells, features the soprano soloist, and concentrates on the more passionate and intimate moments associated with weddings. The third movement, subtitled The Loud Alarum Bells, is a rousing and threatening Presto, representing terror with frightening and demonic outbursts. The final movement, subtitled The Mournful Iron Bells, is gloomy, cold, and dispiriting. With the Baritone singing about the ‘quiet of the tomb’, the piece ends reflecting on the aspects of death, as the music turns sad and warmly Romantic.
Available here is the Boosey And Hawkes Pocket Score edition (No.898) of Rachmaninov’s impressive and moving choral symphony The Bells Op.35, and is ideal for study and perusal usage.