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Elisabeth Leonskaja In Conversation

When Johannes Brahms was celebrated in Malmö, Sweden, legendary pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja played both piano concertos at the very same concert. Piano Street talked to Ms. Leonskaja after one of the rehearsals. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Rachmaninov the man  (Read 14648 times)
Derek
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« on: March 12, 2006, 09:02:55 AM »

How much is known about Rachmaninov personally? As far as I can tell he was never involved in any scandalous situations, had a happy marriage and fathered two children. That makes me happy...that one of my favorite composers was also a decent human being...
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mikey6
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2006, 09:06:28 AM »

He was apparently quite rebelious in his younger age - never practised and got into trouble at college or whatever it was.  Stravinsky described him famously as 'a 6 and a half foot scowl', but I think that's more his posture and presentation at the piano.
He married his cousin so I dunno if that's 'normal' or not for back then.
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trix
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2006, 09:18:45 AM »

Check out the Rachmaninoff Society :       

                              http://www.rachmaninoff.org/

Ashkenazy is the president and on the "download" page he talks about Rach in a video.
Also there's a forum on there which might have some info (if not you could always start a thread like this Wink ).   

Once, awhile back, when the site had a different appearance, I could swear there was a link to an article on there written by someone who knew Rach well and he went into his personality which (he related) was much warmer and more playful than it may have impressed those that didn't know him better.
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2006, 09:31:15 AM »

Check out the Rachmaninoff Society :       

                              http://www.rachmaninoff.org/

Ashkenazy is the president and on the "download" page he talks about Rach in a video.
Also there's a forum on there which might have some info (if not you could always start a thread like this Wink ).   

Once, awhile back, when the site had a different appearance, I could swear there was a link to an article on there written by someone who knew Rach well and he went into his personality which (he related) was much warmer and more playful than it may have impressed those that didn't know him better.
Also, check out ALL the biographical material about him, of which there is no great shortage, even if some of the earlier examples may be harder to track down than more recent work.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2006, 01:00:44 PM »

Although it's a bit slow at times, this book contains a large number of letters written by Rachmaninoff and gives a very good impression of the man behind the music.
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2006, 01:15:48 PM »

kind of funny how noone had every really heard zverev play piano - but that his extreme disciplined approach (especially the 6 am practice schedule - no matter how late they were up the night before) produced very good results in his students.  it does make one kind of laugh and think that almost any parent could do this if they were mean enough.  he must have made it attractive enough, though, too, that his students wouldn't run away or quit.  i have just one question, though?  how to wake up a boy 8 or older at 6 am???  did they use a loaded rifle?  i'm just wondering.
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zheer
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2006, 01:23:41 PM »


He married his cousin so I dunno if that's 'normal' or not for back then.

  Its very normal if you are Muslim, though i dont like the idea. Rachmaninoffs root's are from the middle-east, infact his name Rahman, is a muslim name, and his 2nd and 3rd piano concerto has middle -eastern thing about them, but as you can imagin people in the west get very defencive when this fact is mentioned.
   My grand mother is called Rahma
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pianistimo
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2006, 01:29:05 PM »

hmm.  that's new.  sounds right.  many russians have distinctive ethnicities about them depending upon the area. 
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zheer
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2006, 01:33:24 PM »

.  many russians have distinctive ethnicities about them depending upon the area. 
 

   Yes thats true pianistimo, infact you might find this hard to believe but there are many Russians that are Kurdish, like Turkish kurds, iranian kurds, iraq kurds, armenian kurds. LOL something you learn every day.
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pianistimo
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2006, 01:45:32 PM »

yes.  never having travelled to the area, i know that i am ignorant of many cultures farther south.  my husbands relatives are all from the carpathian mountain region and are more the 'white russians' (if there is such a distinction) from austria/hungary and probably before that from farther east (volga river has a lot of kosov, kosev, etc. names).  i feel that wherever a person lives defines them more than nationality, personally.  it's the culture, the language, etc.  amazing what a history these places have, too.  in america it's relatively recent (200+ years) whereas over there you have thousands of years.
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4tissimo
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2006, 07:46:05 PM »

In 1963 as Librarian @ the Interlochen Arts Academy, the student symphony was doing Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody . . . in F# min. I think, under the direction of Van Cliburn.  They played great and he's a fine pianist but not  a good conductor.  I sang tenor in a chorus accompanied by the World Youth Symphony at the National Music Camp under Cliburn's direction of Vaugh-Williams' Serenade to Music recorded by RCA.  The 12" LP got fairly good reviews but was not a commercial success. 

   Ironically, I was in a car that drove over Rachmaninoff's grave in Valhalla NY in 1964.  It was the only way to get out of the cemetary.  Sorry. 
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Derek
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2006, 08:16:24 PM »

  Its very normal if you are Muslim, though i dont like the idea. Rachmaninoffs root's are from the middle-east, infact his name Rahman, is a muslim name, and his 2nd and 3rd piano concerto has middle -eastern thing about them, but as you can imagin people in the west get very defencive when this fact is mentioned.
   My grand mother is called Rahma

I don't see why anyone should get defensive over that. Whichever muslims came to Russia and were Rachmaninoff's ancestors apparently saw the light and became Christian! HA HA HA  how's that for defensive   Tongue    just kidding  Smiley
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quasimodo
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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2006, 04:27:41 AM »

Blasphemy!
Rachmaninov a man??
He is Da God of da 88.
possibly  Cool
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phil13
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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2006, 05:25:18 AM »


He married his cousin so I dunno if that's 'normal' or not for back then.

So did Grieg. And there were many composers who had the hots for someone else in their family.

Phil
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pianolist
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« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2006, 06:25:11 AM »

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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brewtality
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« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2006, 06:39:07 AM »

How much is known about Rachmaninov personally? As far as I can tell he was never involved in any scandalous situations, had a happy marriage and fathered two children.

Supposedly he had an affair with the singer Nina Koshetz, to whom he decided the 6 songs op 38. Btw she was also one hell of a pianist, played Rach 2 at 16 and could also play Henselt concerto. According to Milstein, Rach liked women "in black stockings". There's a whole chap called "Rachmaninoff as I knew him" in Milstein book From Russia to the West. It provides interesting reading.
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henrah
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« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2006, 10:41:24 AM »

I'm an atheist, but perhaps Pianistimo can get God to bless Rachmaninov.

Surely if you're an atheist, God doesn't exist to you. You may not believe in Him, but asking someone who does to ask Him something means you believe He exists.

What does that make you? An agnostic? I can't remember...
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« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2006, 05:07:41 PM »

Good point! I suppose it makes me someone who can see why others choose to believe in God, and who finds it easier to express the complexities of his atheistic perspective in terms which mean something to a person of faith, and which don't take a page and a half to write out. And I was trying to be nice to Pianistimo, and perhaps cause a general smile, not because I'm sympathetic to fundamental Christianity, but simply because I like to be nice to people.

If we are going in deeper, I can't guarantee to be an atheist, otherwise I would be taking a similar leap of faith to a religious person. But I see no reason at all to believe in any benevolent deity, any afterlife, or anything connected with that sort of belief. We are here for our life span, and that is that, and all the more reason for trying to pass on gentleness from generation to generation, because the aggression is very efficiently transferred down the line by the military, the politicians and the religions.

By the way, Henrah, I think you live in London, because you mentioned your dad's flat in another thread. Rachmaninov will be playing at the Purcell Room in December. I don't think he'll be doing autographs, though.
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cloches_de_geneve
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« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2006, 06:06:07 PM »

Schoenberg (the music critic) in his "The great composers" refers to Rachmaninov as the saddest man who ever lived.
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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2006, 07:20:12 PM »

  Its very normal if you are Muslim, though i dont like the idea. Rachmaninoffs root's are from the middle-east, infact his name Rahman, is a muslim name, and his 2nd and 3rd piano concerto has middle -eastern thing about them, but as you can imagin people in the west get very defencive when this fact is mentioned.
   My grand mother is called Rahma

Rachmaninov's ancestors were Tatars and he was quite proud of that. He himself believed his roots go back to Genghis Khan, who came from Mongolia and invaded many countries, including China, Kiev Rus (going as far as Moscow), Crimea, Bulgaria, and most of middle-eastern countries.

You can hear that "middle eastern thing" not only in his Concerti, but it goes throughout his entire output, starting with his first large work--opera "Aleco", then numerous Romances, Preludes, etc. Even in Corelli Variations there is a whole section, completely build on oriental motives.

Beside his personal pride, it has even more to do with fascination of the whole Russian culture--music, poetry, literature, sculpture, painting--by "oriental" themes. M. Balakirev,  Rimsky-Korsakov, A. Rubinstein, C. Kui, S. Rahmaninov are only a few names were using motives and structural principles (in fact, rather idealized) extensively. That tendency called Russian Orientalism.

Hope it helps,

Best,
M.
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debussy symbolism
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« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2006, 10:38:37 PM »

kind of funny how noone had every really heard zverev play piano - but that his extreme disciplined approach (especially the 6 am practice schedule - no matter how late they were up the night before) produced very good results in his students.  it does make one kind of laugh and think that almost any parent could do this if they were mean enough.  he must have made it attractive enough, though, too, that his students wouldn't run away or quit.  i have just one question, though?  how to wake up a boy 8 or older at 6 am???  did they use a loaded rifle?  i'm just wondering.

Greetings.

If he the students were to quit, they wouldn't too happy to see the look on their parent's faces. In Russia the discipline was very high and the parents wouldn't think twice about giving a beating to a child.
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pies
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« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2006, 11:32:12 PM »

Rach was a closet homosexual
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pianowolfi
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« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2006, 12:12:52 AM »

Rach was a closet homosexual

I don't think so. With Zverjev it's another thing maybe. I don't know. But Rach? No.
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debussy symbolism
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« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2006, 12:30:48 AM »

Rach was a closet homosexual

That would be difficult to prove since he was married and had kids.
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pies
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« Reply #24 on: September 16, 2006, 12:52:23 AM »

Wasn't Horowitz married as well? We all know he liked it up the pooper.
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pianolist
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« Reply #25 on: September 16, 2006, 11:39:36 AM »

What's so special about closets? Do we mean a water-closet, por favor? Or a hidden chamber in a very naughty lady's bedroom? Where was Rachmaninov a homosexual? How can I possibly give his music the right interpretation until I know this?
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« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2006, 11:44:23 AM »

That would be difficult to prove since he was married and had kids.

A lot of them do.

Thal
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brewtality
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« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2006, 12:29:21 PM »

I'd never heard anything about Rach being a poof, horowitz was though. Rach just had a thing for his (female) cousins, he married one and had 'relations' with at least one more.
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henrah
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« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2006, 01:25:40 PM »

And I was trying to be nice to Pianistimo, and perhaps cause a general smile ... simply because I like to be nice to people.

Then that is all that is needed to be acknowledged, and I shall conceed. A nice gesture is always welcomed in my book, even more so if one goes to the trouble of believing for one moment.

By the way, Henrah, I think you live in London, because you mentioned your dad's flat in another thread. Rachmaninov will be playing at the Purcell Room in December. I don't think he'll be doing autographs, though.

Unfortunately, I live in Oxfordshire. My dad simply owns a flat in London that he uses when he goes to work there during the week.

When you say Rachmaninov is playing at the Purcell room, do you mean that his music is being played or that they are showing a video of him playing? Either way I'd still like to see it. Do you happen to know what day in December?
Henrah
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« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2006, 01:36:11 PM »

Oh dear, this is going to be advertising, although it is for a charity (non-profit), so perhaps it's not too bad. The following link will tell you all you need to know. 82 seats gone so far.

http://www.pianola.org/concerts/concerts_2006.cfm

Let me know if you decide to come!
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« Reply #30 on: September 17, 2006, 07:33:31 PM »

 I'm in the process of reading this now (SERGEI RACHMANINOFF:  A Lifetime in Music by Bertensson and Leyda)  and I concur.  This book is full of detail and gives enormous insight into the man.  It is a slow read but definitely worth the time and I'm enjoying it thoroughly
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« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2009, 08:15:37 AM »

Why don't I see his most beautiful music of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini? Can anyone help with this please?
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« Reply #32 on: January 11, 2009, 10:26:51 PM »

Rachmaninov was a profoundly religious man, apparently. His great friend was that superb pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch, though they did not meet often because of their tight schedules. Several English composers have been labeled as being 'the English Rachmaninov' but the one most influenced by him was Roger Sacheverell Coke, 1912-1972. Coke was Lord of the Manor of Pinxton. He visited the great composer at his summer home on Lake Lucerne in the 'thirties, and Rach visited him at his home, Brookhill Hall, on at least one occasion when he was over in England giving recitals. Coke played his own Piano Sonata No.2, G major, Op.26 to the Maestro, but Rach was less than impressed. I have a copy of this and much else by R.S. Coke. He was certainly a great devotee of Rachmaninov's music and this is often reflected in his piano writing which is never anything other than difficult.
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« Reply #33 on: January 16, 2009, 02:28:12 AM »

Rach sat on the toilet and wiped his ass just like the rest of us. ^_^
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« Reply #34 on: January 17, 2009, 08:52:16 PM »

 I am at a total loss as to the point of the last post.
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« Reply #35 on: January 17, 2009, 09:18:12 PM »

I think he means that Rachmaninov was human like the rest of us and shouldn't recieve any extra admiration (worshiping false idols and all that)

That we should respect his works and admire his acheivments but not raise him to a level of a superior being

"Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized" A Einstein
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« Reply #36 on: January 18, 2009, 10:46:37 PM »

 Well, even a perfunctory listening to his complete piano recordings will reveal that he was a pianist superior to the vast majority during the past hundred years.
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« Reply #37 on: January 22, 2009, 09:01:49 AM »

were his children also musicians??
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« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2009, 05:02:40 PM »

were his children also musicians??
His grandchild went to have lessons but were not of extraordinary talent so says Adele Marcus I think - it's in the pianists at play book.
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« Reply #39 on: February 02, 2011, 02:33:50 PM »

I recently blogged: "Nice Rach II" Rachmaninov's Secrets to Beautiful Piano Playing
http://pianosage.blogspot.com/2011/01/nice-rach-ii-rachmaninovs-secrets-to.html
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« Reply #40 on: February 03, 2011, 11:17:47 AM »

  Its very normal if you are Muslim, though i dont like the idea. Rachmaninoffs root's are from the middle-east, infact his name Rahman, is a muslim name, and his 2nd and 3rd piano concerto has middle -eastern thing about them, but as you can imagin people in the west get very defencive when this fact is mentioned.
   My grand mother is called Rahma

Really surprising since he looked very Russian too me. He looks a lot like my old bandmate. dark hair, blue eyes and not most handsome face in the world.

His name was Odinikov by the way if that gives you some herritage indications.

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« Reply #41 on: February 05, 2011, 03:45:37 AM »

Well I just learned on wikipedia he had at least one affair. Welp, I give up. Nobody's perfect not even the great Rachmaninoff.  Grin
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« Reply #42 on: February 05, 2011, 07:48:46 AM »

I recently blogged: "Nice Rach II" Rachmaninov's Secrets to Beautiful Piano Playing
http://pianosage.blogspot.com/2011/01/nice-rach-ii-rachmaninovs-secrets-to.html

Rach 2 is the greatest...
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