| Rachmaninov’s list of works stops at Opus 45 with Opuses 1-39 being written before he left his beloved Russia in 1917. In the next twenty-six years of his life in the West, extreme pressure of an intensive concert schedule would not allow him to devote much time to composition. His last two compositions, however, are large-scale orchestral works: Symphony No. 3, Op. 44 and the Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.
Symphony No. 3 (1935-6, second version 1939) has only three movements, although there is an element of scherzo in the second movement. It is in then same elegiac mood as the Second Symphony, but it differs significantly in the sense of being less unified and considerably sharpened in its melodic profile and harmonic texture. It is rhythmically more intense and diverse than any of Rachmaninov’s previous symphonic scores. Its premiere in 1936 under Stokowski was not successful, and it was revised before it was first recorded in 1939.
Although Rachmaninov’s Three Unaccompanied Choruses were written on both sacred and secular texts, the music of all three is quite similar. They were originally written as three independent works and not published together until 1972. ‘Panteley the Healer’ (1900) is a dramatic setting of a text by Tolstoy. Chorus of Spirits for ‘Don Juan’ (1894?) is a short but expressive work, again using a Tolstoy text. ‘O Mother of God vigilantly praying’ (1893) is the earliest and largest of the three and written on a sacred text. It is surely a continuation of Bortnyansky’s idea of the sacred concerto.
The cantata ‘Spring’ was written in 1902, and is very different from his works for unaccompanied chorus. It is clearly a preparation for his future operas in its use of, for example, dramatic recitatives. The cantata consists of three continuous sections, the second of which is a monologue for baritone solo, framed by ‘comments’ from the chorus.