RACHMANINOFF, Sergei Vasil’yevich (b. 20 March [1 April] 1873, the estate of Oneg (Semyonovo?), in today’s Novgorod region of the Novgorod district; d. 28 March 1943, Beverly Hills, California) — from 1882 studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, then in 1885 transferred to the Moscow Conservatory from which he graduated in piano (1891) and composition (1892); studied with A. I. Ziloti, A. S. Arensky, and S. I. Taneyev. Renowned as a pianist, composer, and conductor.
Although R.’s compositional activity was devoted primarily to secular music (operas, symphonies, chamber works, piano works, romances, choruses with piano, et al.), his sacred works — the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, opus 31, and the All-Night Vigil, opus 37 — stand as major masterpieces in the Russian church-musical literature. One other sacred work, the sacred concerto “The Theotokos, ever-vigilant in prayer”, which was written in his youth and remained unpublished during his lifetime, also stands out among the works of contemporaries by its artistic design and intensity of expression. All of R.’s sacred works are marked by highly individualistic religious emotionalism and a complexity of musical technique (texture, sonority, dynamics, etc.).