Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote the Symphonic Dances, his last composition, in American exile 80 years ago. It incorporates several references to earlier works by Rachmaninoff, which were more or less successful.
The coda of the first dance, for instance, quotes the triplet motif from the first movement of Symphony No. 1 in D minor, composed almost 50 years earlier, which had mercilessly failed with the audience. After its premiere, Rachmaninoff was not meant to hear any other performance of this symphony ever again. In the third of the Symphonic Dances, there is a hint at the Hallelujah from Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil. This is one of the most important works of Russian Orthodox sacred music. The Dies irae motif pervades across all of Rachmaninoff’s work and is also reflected in the last movement of this composition.
Originally, the movements bore the subtitles of “Noon”, “Twilight” and “Midnight”. Due to the presence of the above musical parallels, the Symphonic Dances are often perceived as autobiographical and related to Rachmaninoff’s life.