Vokaliz Op. 34 No. 14 was composed by Sergei Rachmaninov
in 1912. It has been transcribe
d for nearly every instrument
but was originally written for voice
Well known for his epic piano concertos and symphonies, Rachmaninov instead takes a simple combination of melody and harmony to complete a wordless line of music unlike most of his work, but a highly integrated piece in its own right. It is an extreme challenge to sing, with long, 20 second vocal passages that must be sung in one breath combined with an even, "floating" tone to create the melancholy of mood and smoothness of transition required by the piece.
I adore this song. It is positively haunting; the voice and cello (in my favorite version of the piece) descend together at the beginning of the work, weaving in and out of one another. In versions that substitute piano for one of the instruments, there is much more of a contrast. The voice and cello seem to move as one, but piano against violin or another instument is much more stark and desolate. The voice and cello are warming together, the piano and violin are more chillingly tragic.
Most of the songs in this set of fourteen are written for the poetry of Marietta Shaginyan. However, Vocalise is dedicated to the singer Antonina Nezhdanova.