This is a gorgeous transcription and performance for theremin of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s song, Opus 21 #7, Zdes Xorosho (How Fair This Spot).
Peformed by Peter Pringle.
According to the New York Times, Rachmaninoff attended a demonstration of the theremin in 1930, given by its inventor, Leon Theremin (a fellow Russian), at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Apparently there was a woman in the audience who leapt to her feet after the first number applauding and shouting “Bravo! Bravo!” Rachmaninoff who, according to the article, was sitting behind her, loudly exclaimed, “Sit down Madame! You Exaggerate!”
At the time, the instrument was unknown and there were no musicians, other than its inventor, who were competent to play it.
Although Rachmaninoff never wrote anything for the theremin, one of his compositions, VOCALISE, has become one of the standard transcription compositions for the instrument. In regard to this song, HOW FAIR THIS SPOT, written for piano and voice in 1901, I found the following information on the internet:
“Rachmaninoff and his wife were on their honeymoon when he composed the work, which, not surprisingly, he also dedicated to her. Moreover, he had recently recovered from a depression caused by the disastrous 1897 premiere of his Symphony No. 1, which undermined his confidence and ability to compose until the appearance in 1901 of his ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2. This was obviously a blissful time in his life, then, true to his nature, Rachmaninoff was moved to write music here about romance and passion, leaving out the sunshine and merriment he must also have felt. The song features one of the composer’s most soaring, beautiful vocal melodies that would not have been out of place in a slow movement of one of his concertos or symphonies. The accompaniment is appropriately subdued and just as romantic as the vocal line. The text, by G. Galina, describes a pastoral scene where young lovers have come to be alone with nature and themselves. This lovely song typically has a duration of just over two minutes.”