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Rachmaninoff, Sergei

Sergei Rachmaninoff – The finest example of late Russian Romanticism.  This Russian composer held on to being a romantic composer well into the twentieth century, a time when his fellow composers like Stravinsky and Prokofiev were forever reinventing classical music. We will dedicate this week to explore the private life and music of this lyrically gifted pianist and composer. Rachmaninoff once said, “If you want to know me, you must know my music." 

Program 1

Largely influenced by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and his compositions, Sergei Rachmaninoff commenced his own music career by first taking piano instruction in Moscow. However, Rachmaninoff removed himself and went to live with relatives in Ivanafka, as he had grown tired of the intensive methods he was taught in Moscow. He composed his first piano concerto in F sharp minor at 18, and continued to embark towards his most acclaimed pieces, including his piano concerto in C-sharp minor. 

Rachmaninoff's idols drove him to incorporate a heavy gypsy theme to his music, creating a sound of travel. 

Rachmaninoff: Vespers Op. 37 (excerpt)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/ Hillier
Harmonia Mundi 807504

Rachmaninoff: Suite for two pianos, II (excerpt)
Argerich & Montero, pianos
EMI 58472
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto #1 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 1, Vivace
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy; Rachmaninoff, p.
RCA 61658
Rachmaninoff: Dances From Aleko: Women's Dance & Men’s Dance
Philharmonia Orchestra
Chandos 9081
4:19, 4:59
Rachmaninoff: "The Moon Is High In The Sky" fr. Aleko
Orch./Goossens; Chaliapin, bs.
Pearl 9921
Rachmaninoff: Prelude In C-Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2
Ashkenazy, p.
Decca 43666386
Rachmaninoff: Capriccio On Gypsy Themes, Op. 12,
 "Caprice Bohemien"
Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Polyansky
Chandos 10104


Program 2

After becoming embarrassed into hiding, Rachmaninoff seeks help from Dr. Nikolai Dahl, who hyptonizes and encourages Rachmaninoff to regain his positive outlook on composing. After several daily visits to Dahl, Rachmaninoff manages to recover from the reputation that the concert premiering his first symphony in D-minor, "Op. 13, I" and "III" conducted by a drunk Glazunov left him with. Dahl's help boosted Rachmaninoff to write and perform his second concerto. 

Rachmaninoff: Piano Trio #2 In D Minor, Op. 9,
Trio Élégiaque, I (excerpt), III
Kogan, v.; Luzanov, vc.; Svetlanov, p.
Russian Disc 10 046
1:05, 7:27

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13, I, III
Russian State Symphony/Polyansky
Chandos 9822
14:09, 10:45
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto #2 In C Minor, Op. 18, I
Philadelphia Orch/Stokowski; Rachmaninoff, p.
RCA 61265
Rachmaninoff: The Bells, I. Allegro Ma Non Tanto
Russian State Symphony/Polyansky
Chan 9759
Program 3

Tchaikovsky proposes to Rachmaninoff the idea to produce his music with Tchaikovsky's own opera. Rachmaninoff premieres his third concerto, one of the hardest concertos ever composed in New York City, and then at Carnegie Hall with two different conductors. Composer and conductor Gustav Mahler conducted the Carnegie Hall performance, and his method was one Rachmaninoff greatly appreciated, probably especially after the unforgettable experience with his first symphony in St. Petersburg.

Rachmaninoff: Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 31:
X. “We Praise Thee”
The Sixteen/Christophers
Decca 000682502

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27, I & III
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy 
RCA 60132
18:49, 12:59
Rachmaninoff: Concerto for Piano No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30:
I. Allegro ma non tanto
New York Philharmonic/Ozawa; Watts, p.
Sony 63032
Program 4

Rachmaninoff maintained his Russian veins even after departing from Russia for good. During WWI and throughout the Communist revolution, Russia suffered, heavily influencing Rachmaninoff's later compositions. He believed one's music should represent his origins. But his country wasn't the only influence on Rachmaninoff. He took inspiration from Arnold Bocklin's dark painting, "The Isle of the Dead," as well as many other works of art and literature. 

Rachmaninoff: Vespers, Op. 37: “Come, let us Worship”
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Hillier
HM 807504
2:51, :42

The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29
Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Polyansky
Chan 10104
Rachmaninoff: Suite #1 For 2 Pianos, Op. 5, IV
Argerich & Rabinovitch, pnos.
Teldec 74717
Rachmaninoff: Symphony #3 In A Minor, Op. 44, II
Philadelphia Orch/Dutoit
Lon 433181
Rachmaninoff: Suite #2 For 2 Pianos, Op. 17, IV
Ax & Bronfman, pnos.
Sony 61767
Rachmaninoff: Lilacs, Op. 21/5
Rachmaninoff, p.
RCA 7766
Program 5

"If you want to know me, you must know my music," Rachmaninoff once said. Bill dissects the chords in some of Rachmaninoff's final compositions, morphing the "Paganini" into a C-sharp major, then reversing the melody to produce a Hollywood style tune, though that is not what Rachmaninoff intended. Rachmaninoff surprises his audience by including an alto-saxophonist, Carl Waxman to play in his eerie orchestra piece, "Symphonic Dances." Though Bill cites a journal entry in which Rachmaninoff writes of his lack of youth and nation, he reminds us that Rachmaninoff left an unforgettably respectable mark. 

Rachmaninoff: Vespers Op. 37 (excerpt)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Hillier
Harmonia Mundi 807504

Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
LSO/Previn; Ashkenazy, p.
Decca 473251
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (excerpts)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy
Decca 473251
11:27, 14:02
Rachmaninoff: Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Järvi
Chandos 9261
1:41, :37


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