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Rachmaninov’s third and final symphony was composed nearly 20 years after the composer’s emigration from his homeland. Often considered to be his most overtly Russian symphony, Rachmaninov makes subtle use of a motto theme which appears throughout the work and can be heard in the finale as a variant of the Dies Irae plainchant – a melodic tag used in Rachmaninov’s music as a dark reminder of mortality.
Russia, the epic symphonic poem, is a reworking of an Overture on Russian Themes, collected during Balakirev’s expedition up through the Volga. It was composed in 1864 and is based on three folksongs – a slow wedding song and two round-dances which are varied, fragmented and combined throughout the piece.