Dancing. Rachmaninov’s fantastic symphonic dances.

Rachmaninov’s symphonic dances, described by him earlier as ‘fantastic dances’ are his last major composition. It leads from deeply human dances in the beginning to the dies-irae/All-Night Vigil – dance in the end, a statement to afterlife.

A friend of mine once wrote to me in a birthday letter:
,,Sometimes I imagine we all dance our own unique dance. That our life is one big dance. Thank you for letting me view your dance.”
Incredibly touching words. I like the image of dancing our own dance of life. Listen to one dance in the first movement at minute 5:38.
It is a very slow dance.
I imagine an endlessly turning caleidoscope, glimmering in thousand colours.
Isn’t it beautiful?

The next dance I would like to show you is at minute 1:30 in the second movement, a valse.
I imagine a through their love beautiful couple, dancing very inwardly. They are just dancing for themselves – dancing their own dance of life together.
Listen to this beauty:

The following painting by Van Gogh describes this valse to me…

Couple Dancing, Van Gogh 1885
Credits to Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The last dance I would like to show you is a very different one.
It is about life and death.
It is the last dance in the end of the third movement where Rachmaninov mixes the dies-irae theme with the theme of his All-night Vigil.
The theme of the Mass of the Dead gets another ending here.
‘Alliluya’ writes Rachmaninov in the score.
Rachmaninov composes this at the end of his life, one can feel a presentiment to what comes after life.
What a statement. Listen to the third movement minute 12:41:


What do you feel?