Valter Dešpalj – Rachmaninoff Vocalise for Cello and Piano

Dešpalj arranges Rachmaninoff's Vocalise for Cello Solo & Piano

Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise is well-known for being a song without words, instead sung on only one vowel of the singer's choosing. Composed in 1915, the Vocalise premiered in January 1916 to a performance by the Russian soprano Antonina Nezhdanova, for whom the composition was dedicated to. Although Rachmaninoff did indeed write it for soprano (or tenor) and piano accompaniment, the premiere featured his arrangement of soprano with orchestra.

About Rachmaninoff's Vocalise for Cello and Piano

Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, composed and published as the last of his 14 Songs, Op. 34 has been arranged for solo cello with piano.

While traditionally played in the key of E minor, this edition offers a transposition in C minor. The inspiration for this choice came to me while listening to Anna Moffo's legendary recording (with Leopold Stokowski conducting the American Symphony), where she sings in that key. Her dreamy and deeply moving expression, very slow tempo and indeed the unusual tonality, make her interpretation very special. The C minor alternative, played in the cello's lower register with frequent crossings between the A and D strings, provides for more color and depth. This enhances a nostalgic atmosphere of the Vocalise and complements the essential character of the cello.

--Valter Dešpalj

Download the Score!

The Vocalise is often the subject of arrangement/transcription: indeed we ourselves have released editions for both cello sextet and cello octet. However, sometimes it's good to get back to something a little simpler, and that is exactly what editor Valter Dešpalj has done in his beautiful rendition for cello and piano.

About the Editor – Valter Dešpalj

Valter Dešpalj is professor of cello at music academies in Zagreb and Liechtenstein. A graduate from the Juilliard School (where he studied cello under Leonard Rose and chamber music with Felix Galimir and the Juilliard Quartet), he also took master classes with P. Casals, P. Fournier and A. Navarra, and did two years of postgraduate study with G. Kozolupova at the Moscow Conservatory.

Mr. Dešpalj has performed all over the world, including performances at festivals in Gstaad, Lockenhaus, Kuhmo and Dubrovnik, also in some of the most prestigious concert halls, such as Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall in London, Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam′s Concertgebouw, Moscow Conservatory Hall etc. Besides teaching in Zagreb and Liechtenstein, he has also been a guest professor at the conservatories in The Hague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Graz (University of Music), editor of cello music with major music publishers, and member of judging panels at the most prestigious international competitions including Tchaikovsky (Moscow), Bach (Leipzig), Lutoslawski (Warsaw) and ARD (Munich) competitions.

Learn more about Valter Dešpalj and his arrangements at Ovation Press. You can also read an interview with Dešpalj on our blog Ovation Press String Visions.