Our 2023–24 series Icons Rediscovered with Music Director Vasily Petrenko delves into the music worlds of two Romantic icons who lived and worked at almost exactly the same time continents apart - Edward Elgar and Sergei Rachmaninov. Richard Bratby explore what links these two titans of orchestral music.
“Listen!” calls the tenor, at the start of Rachmaninov’s The Bells. He wants us to hear the sound of sleighbells: and not just the cheerful jangle of winter traffic on the snowbound streets of a vanished Moscow. To Rachmaninov, the voice of the bells was the sound of life itself. “If I have been at all successful in making bells vibrate with human emotion in my works, it is largely because most of my life was lived amid the vibrations of the bells of Moscow”, wrote the composer, years later, looking back on the summer afternoon in 1912 when he began to compose The Bells. “In the drowsy quiet I heard the bell voices, and tried to set down on paper their lovely tones that seemed to express the varying shades of human experience.”