How Do You Like Your Vocalise?

Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1892.(Photo: Moscow Conservatory)
Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1892.(Photo: Moscow Conservatory)

If you have listened to pop music or watched movies  for any length of time, then you may have noticed that some things lend themselves to different interpretations while others don’t. At least once, all of us has looked at the radio and said, “you know, so-and-so did that better.”

A cover version of a classic tune can be dangerous. Other works adapt from one arrangement to another quite easily. One of those pieces is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise published in 1912 as the last of his Fourteen Songs, Op. 34. It is not often heard in it’s original form.

Having recently played a version for cello and chamber orchestra, I did a little looking and found an album for those of us who just can’t choose which version we like best. It has 13 different arrangements of Vocalise, including one conducted by Rachmaninoff himself to set the tone. I am partial to a version by Branford Marsalis and the English Chamber Orchestra on Romances For Saxophone. But, whichever one you prefer, this disc deserves your attention.

Watch Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa sing Vocalise:

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