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Bells of Moscow, The (Rachmaninoff)

Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2 arranged for percussion ensemble by Stephen Primatic
Level: Medium
Duration: 3:15
Personnel: 10 players
Release Date: 2019
Product ID : TSPCE19-020
Price: $35.00
Item #: TSPCE19-020

Formats Available:


Description

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor left a lasting impression on audiences when it was first premiered. It became so popular that it garnered many pseudonyms throughout the world such as The Burning of Moscow, The Day of Judgment, and The Moscow Waltz, though it’s often known as The Bells of Moscow due to the way its introduction mimics the Kremlin’s stately carillon chimes.

Originally written for piano and characterized by dense harmonies and bombastic accents, this piece is perfectly suited for a richly colored orchestration and Stephen Primatic delivers a brilliantly scored adaptation for the world of percussion.

This piece comes as a professionally printed and bound score and includes individual parts in PDF format for printing or for tablet viewing.

Instrumentation

Glockenspiel

Chimes

Xylophone

Vibraphone

3-4 marimbas*—(1-2) 4-octave, (1) low A, (1) low C

2 or 3 timpani

Concert bass drum

Cymbals & gongs (hi-hat, crash cymbals, tam-tam)

*This piece can be performed with Marimbas 1 & 4 sharing a 5-octave (low C) instrument.

Reviews

Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2,” also known as “The Bells of Moscow,” is one of the renowned composer’s most popular works, and Stephen Primatic’s arrangement for percussion ensemble is both satisfying and shrewd. Satisfying, in that the arrangement mostly captures the morose, if not maudlin, character of Rachmaninoff’s original piano version, and shrewd in that there are a bevy of opportunities packed into the arrangement’s three-minute footprint for ensemble directors to address and define phrasing, rubato, and other stylistic/ interpretation concepts while providing a rich (if brief) listening experience for the audience. While the piece is listed by the publisher as being of medium difficulty, this designation should only apply to the technical demands of the piece (no four-mallet technique is required), and not the higher demands of balance and artistry placed on the ensemble. The arrangement is clearly intended for ensembles at the high school level (or possibly an extremely talented middle school group), but it could also be a rewarding project for a university ensemble interested add- ing a short, low-stress arrangement project to their program. 

There are a couple decisions that I might have made a little differently had I been the arranger, beginning with the addition of the hi-hat. The creative risks Primatic takes in adding extra percussion mostly pay off, particularly in regards to the added weight and gravitas of the bass drum and the complex color of the tam-tam scrapes. However, I found the riding hi-hat triplets in the middle “agitato” section to be a step too far, and I couldn’t help but connect the resultant texture to Mannheim Steamroller (perhaps, writing this as I am in mid-December, other cultural influences are also on my mind). Were I to direct this arrangement myself, I might be tempted to leave that part out in favor of preserving the original carillon spirit of the piano prelude, without add- ed grooviness. I’ll admit, however, that I under- stand the need for younger students to have a reliable “metronome” to reference at that point in the work, and perhaps groups with less experience should ignore my earlier complaint in the interest of practicality. 

I should also point out that the arrangement calls for a low C-sharp in the timpani, which may not be reliably achieved by the instruments found at every school. Primatic is correct in warning that taking that note up an octave is not an acceptable substitute, so directors should as- certain whether their lowest timpano is capable of producing a satisfactory low C-sharp before committing to this arrangement. 

All in all, this worthwhile arrangement pro- vides a fabulous opportunity for percussion students to crack open their musical passports and visit the piano repertoire of late-19th-century Russia, and to gain some excellent artistic development along the way. I highly recommend this piece to any high school director looking for a short project that is light on technical demand but heavy on artistry.

—Brian Graiser
Percussive Notes
Vol. 58, No. 1, February 2020

Description

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor left a lasting impression on audiences when it was first premiered. It became so popular that it garnered many pseudonyms throughout the world such as The Burning of Moscow, The Day of Judgment, and The Moscow Waltz, though it’s often known as The Bells of Moscow due to the way its introduction mimics the Kremlin’s stately carillon chimes.

Originally written for piano and characterized by dense harmonies and bombastic accents, this piece is perfectly suited for a richly colored orchestration and Stephen Primatic delivers a brilliantly scored adaptation for the world of percussion.

This piece comes as a professionally printed and bound score and includes individual parts in PDF format for printing or for tablet viewing.

Instrumentation

Glockenspiel

Chimes

Xylophone

Vibraphone

3-4 marimbas*—(1-2) 4-octave, (1) low A, (1) low C

2 or 3 timpani

Concert bass drum

Cymbals & gongs (hi-hat, crash cymbals, tam-tam)

*This piece can be performed with Marimbas 1 & 4 sharing a 5-octave (low C) instrument.

Reviews

Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2,” also known as “The Bells of Moscow,” is one of the renowned composer’s most popular works, and Stephen Primatic’s arrangement for percussion ensemble is both satisfying and shrewd. Satisfying, in that the arrangement mostly captures the morose, if not maudlin, character of Rachmaninoff’s original piano version, and shrewd in that there are a bevy of opportunities packed into the arrangement’s three-minute footprint for ensemble directors to address and define phrasing, rubato, and other stylistic/ interpretation concepts while providing a rich (if brief) listening experience for the audience. While the piece is listed by the publisher as being of medium difficulty, this designation should only apply to the technical demands of the piece (no four-mallet technique is required), and not the higher demands of balance and artistry placed on the ensemble. The arrangement is clearly intended for ensembles at the high school level (or possibly an extremely talented middle school group), but it could also be a rewarding project for a university ensemble interested add- ing a short, low-stress arrangement project to their program. 

There are a couple decisions that I might have made a little differently had I been the arranger, beginning with the addition of the hi-hat. The creative risks Primatic takes in adding extra percussion mostly pay off, particularly in regards to the added weight and gravitas of the bass drum and the complex color of the tam-tam scrapes. However, I found the riding hi-hat triplets in the middle “agitato” section to be a step too far, and I couldn’t help but connect the resultant texture to Mannheim Steamroller (perhaps, writing this as I am in mid-December, other cultural influences are also on my mind). Were I to direct this arrangement myself, I might be tempted to leave that part out in favor of preserving the original carillon spirit of the piano prelude, without add- ed grooviness. I’ll admit, however, that I under- stand the need for younger students to have a reliable “metronome” to reference at that point in the work, and perhaps groups with less experience should ignore my earlier complaint in the interest of practicality. 

I should also point out that the arrangement calls for a low C-sharp in the timpani, which may not be reliably achieved by the instruments found at every school. Primatic is correct in warning that taking that note up an octave is not an acceptable substitute, so directors should as- certain whether their lowest timpano is capable of producing a satisfactory low C-sharp before committing to this arrangement. 

All in all, this worthwhile arrangement pro- vides a fabulous opportunity for percussion students to crack open their musical passports and visit the piano repertoire of late-19th-century Russia, and to gain some excellent artistic development along the way. I highly recommend this piece to any high school director looking for a short project that is light on technical demand but heavy on artistry.

—Brian Graiser
Percussive Notes
Vol. 58, No. 1, February 2020



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