Completed in 1940, the Symphonic Dances were Rachmaninov’s last composition. The work is fully representative of the composer’s late style with its curious, shifting harmonies, the almost Prokofiev-like grotesquerie and the focus on individual instrumental tone colours. Originally entitled Fantastic Dances each movement was subtitled Noon, Twilight and Midnight. There is no record as to why the main title and movement titles were dropped but when premiered in 1941 they had the title we know today.
This arrangement is taken from the last section of the third and final dance and is a kind of struggle between the Dies Irae, representing Death, and a quotation from Rachmaninov’s own Vespers representing Resurrection. The Resurrection theme proves victorious in the end as the composer actually writes the word ‘Hallelujah’ in the relevant place in the score.