Rachmaninoff was not a great churchgoer, and in fact had stopped going completely by the time he composed his Vespers, and his other great a cappella work, the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom op.31. Nevertheless, he retained a love for and interest in the ecclesiastical chant, and perhaps the most famous of these, the Dies irae, appears in his First Symphony and the late Symphonic Dances of 1940.
Rachmaninoff, like his great predecessor Tchaikovsky, was very critical of his own music, but he considered the Vespers and his choral symphony The Bells among his favourites. The Vespers had to wait until 1965 for the first recording due to the Soviet anti-religion stance. Even then it was released for export only.
Russian Orthodox Church music never fails to move and stir the emotions, whether one is religious or not. Rachmaninoff ’s Vespers, like many of his most popular works, does not disappoint in its emotional impact and sincerity.