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Rachmaninoff - Piano Music

Sergey Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), one of the greatest pianists of all time, possessed an incredible technique marked by precision, clarity, a unique singing quality and a tremendous and overwhelming power.
Luckily, there are ample opportunities to study his style from the several recordings he made of both his own and other composers´ music.  His hands were famously large — he could, with his left hand, play the chord C-E flat-G-C-G.
Rachmaninoff studied at the Moscow Conservatory, receiving the gold medal in composition as well as the personal encouragement of Tchaikovsky.
In 1895 came his first serious setback: the dismal reception of his first symphony, very badly conducted by a drunk Glazunov. This disaster, coupled with Rachmaninoff’s distress over the church´s objection to his marrying his cousin Natalia, contributed to a time of severe depression, lasting until a course of autosuggestive therapy with the psychologist Nikolai Dahl helped him recovered his confidence. The composition of the second piano concerto, dedicated to Dr. Dahl, marked the end of this dark period. The concerto had great success at its premiere and has remained one of Rachmaninoff’s best loved works.
He was finally allowed to marry Natalia – a union that lasted until the composer´s death – and so the first decade of the twentieth century proved a productive and happy one for Rachmaninoff, resulting in such masterpieces as the second symphony, the tone poem Isle of the Dead, and the third piano concerto. By the end of the decade, Rachmaninoff made his first tremendously successful American tour.
He continued to make his home in Russia but left permanently following the Revolution in 1917; after this, his music was banned in the Soviet Union for several years. His compositional output slowed dramatically, partly because of extensive performing, but mainly because he felt a loss of inspiration when leaving Russia. As he became more and more aware of the fact that he would never again return, he was overwhelmed with melancholia.
Most people who knew him later in life described him as the saddest man they had ever known. Rachmaninoff, regarded the last great Russian romantic composer, died in Beverly Hills, California, shortly after becoming an American citizen.

Major works:
Orchestral: 3 symphonies, Isle of the Dead, The Rock, Symphonic Dances, 4 piano concertos, Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini
Chamber: Cello Sonata, 2 string quartets, 2 piano trios
Piano solo: Preludes op. 23 & 32, Études-Tableaux op. 33 & 39, Six Moments Musicaux, Variations on a Theme of Chopin, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, two piano sonatas, two suites for two pianos.

Quote:
Rachmaninoff about his contemporaries:
"The new kind of music seems to create not from the heart but from the head. Its composers think rather than feel. They have not the capacity to make their works exalt – they meditate, protest, analyze, reason, calculate and brood, but they do not exalt."

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Total pieces by Rachmaninoff: 56

Collections - Rachmaninoff
Rachmaninoff - 13 Preludes (13 pieces)
Rachmaninoff - Concertos (3 pieces)
Rachmaninoff - Etudes-Tableaux (17 pieces)
Rachmaninoff - Moments Musicaux (6 pieces)
Rachmaninoff - Morceaux de Fantaisie (4 pieces)
Rachmaninoff - Preludes (10 pieces)
Rachmaninoff - Miscellaneous Pieces (3 pieces)



Posts in the piano forum about Rachmaninoff:

xx Re: Rachmaninov the man
September 15, 2006, 06:25:11 AM by pianolist

I think I posted this story elsewhere on the forum, but it ought to go here as well.

Phyllis Sellick (the secondo to Cyril Smith's one-handed primo), was on the BBC's "Desert Island Discs" about three years ago. She remembered being at the Proms in the 1930s for the Henry Wood Jubliee Concert, the one where Vaughan Williams' "Serenade to Music" received its premiere. She was a young woman at the time, and someone had given her a seat in a VIP box. In the first half of the concert, Rachmaninov had played his own Second Concerto.

In the second half, Rachmaninov sat at the front of the box in order to listen to the RVW. Apparently he got up and left after a little while, because the music was making him cry, and he couldn't continue to listen in public view.

Very, very heartfelt performances of Rachmaninov's music make me cry, as does the original recording of Vaughan Williams' "Serenade to Music". I'm normally quite good with words, but I simply can't express the feelings this little story evokes in me. I'm an atheist, but perhaps Pianistimo can get God to bless Rachmaninov.



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