Rachmaninoff: Vespers - All-Night Vigil

Could the definitive recording of the best-loved Orthodox choral music of all come from an Anglican chapel choir? Delphian’s Paul Baxter thinks so.

The young King’s College London voices are bright, responsive and clear, and the recording is intentionally designed to bring out the bell-like phrases that ring through the whole piece. From the first second the sound grabs you and holds you close: it’s punchy, and bold – a new presentation of music we all thought we knew.

In a recording to honour Rachmaninoff’s 150th anniversary, Joseph Fort and The Choir of King’s College London stake their claim to be among the finest choirs in the business.

"... For a British choir, [Choir of King's College London] do amazing justice to the Russian-isms of the setting, its homogenous viscosity, blood-curdling subterranean bass lines, and especially the iconic allusions to bells that are a permeating undercurrent throughout the score. Fort garners glowing consistency and soulfulness from his singers, the soloists emerging and receding over the choir with organic intensity. Powerful music delivered with compelling self-belief ..."

"This is an assuredly faultless interpretation of the divine masterpiece, luminous, richly textured, rapturous and reverent, every note and nuance clearly expressive, rich and passionate, yet movingly persuasive. The unison in the swelling choral passages carries what can only be described as a numinous quality - felt, intuited, experienced even completely detached as this critic is from the Russian orthodox ritualistic incantations, liturgical hymns and canticles and with little insight into the specific references. This in itself and the feeling of immediacy and Russian authenticity, not least in the bass voicing, is quite remarkable given that the All-Night Vigil was never written as a concert performance piece, and the musical spirituality is deeply embedded in the act of worship ... Although there have been some 30 prestigious recordings of the piece this century alone, this from Delphian’s burgeoning discography is a must-have for all who love Rachmaninoff"

"Meticulously articulated: the choir's attention to detail is admirable throughout ... an attractive listening experience"

The commitment is evident at once in the way the choir sings ‘O come, let us worship’: Joseph Fort and his choir make this into the urgent call to worship that it should be. The sound is bright, fresh and clear; given the numbers involved, it’s no surprise to find the soprano line comes through strongly, though not in a dominant way ... ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord’ shows how disciplined this choir is; they make the most of the contrasts in the music – but without any unwarranted exaggeration – and I thought their performance was not only committed but also genuinely exciting, especially as the piece nears its conclusion ... There’s a great deal to enjoy and admire here. Joseph Fort has clearly prepared his choir with great thoroughness ... The quality of their singing is enhanced by the recorded sound. I’m rarely, if ever, disappointed by Delphian sound. On this occasion producer/engineer Paul Baxter has captured expertly the sound of the choir in the lovely acoustic of All Hallows Church. There’s just the right amount of warmth and resonance to the sound, but the sympathetic acoustic doesn’t interfere with clarity. In short, I find the sound ideal ... This is a worthy tribute to Sergei Rachmaninoff in his anniversary year. It’s also a feather in the cap of this fine choir"

read the full review here

"King’s College have a light, buoyant sound and plunge us straight into Rachmaninov’s sound world"

Release Date: 24 February 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34296
Total playing time: 53:00
Recorded on 25-27 February 2022 in All Hallows’, Gospel Oak Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter

Design: Drew Padrutt
Booklet editor: Henry Howard
Session photography: foxbrushfilms.com
Cover image: Mafujur Rahman


2. Bless the Lord, My Soul (Greek Chant)

Album Booklet


VII Glory to God in the Highest | Choir of King's College London

The emotive seventh movement of Rachmaninoff's masterpiece, filmed after hours at All Hallow's Gospel Oak during recording week ...

You may also like ...