Sergei Rachmaninov

Biography

Born: Apr 1, 1873; Russia   Died: Mar 28, 1943; USA   Period: 20th Century
Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninov, born in Semyonovo, Russia, on April 1, 1873, is today remembered as one of the most formidable pianists of all time and the last truly great composer in the Russian Romantic tradition. Rachmaninov came from a music-loving, land-owning family; young Sergey's mother fostered the boy's innate talent by giving him his first piano lessons. After a decline in the family fortunes, the Rachmaninovs moved to St. Petersburg, Read more where Sergei studied with Vladimir Delyansky at the Conservatory. As his star continued to rise, Sergei went to the Moscow Conservatory, where he received a sound musical training: piano lessons from the strict disciplinarian Nikolay Zverev and Alexander Siloti (Rachmaninov's cousin), counterpoint with Taneyev, and harmony with Arensky. During his time at the Conservatory, Rachmaninov boarded with Zverev, whose weekly musical Sundays provided the young musician the valuable opportunity to make important contacts and to hear a wide variety of music.
As Rachmaninov's conservatory studies continued, his burgeoning talent came into full flower; he received the personal encouragement of Tchaikovsky, and, a year after earning a degree in piano, took the Conservatory's gold medal in composition for his opera Aleko (1892). Early setbacks in his compositional career -- particularly, the dismal reception of his Symphony No. 1 (1895) -- led to an extended period of depression and self-doubt, which he overcame with the aid of hypnosis. With the resounding success of his Piano Concerto No. 2 (1900-1901), however, his lasting fame as a composer was assured. The first decade of the twentieth century proved a productive and happy one for Rachmaninov, who during that time produced such masterpieces as the Symphony No. 2 (1907), the tone poem Isle of the Dead (1907), and the Piano Concerto No. 3 (1909). On May 12, 1902, the composer married his cousin, Natalya Satina.
By the end of the decade, Rachmaninov had embarked on his first American tour, which cemented his fame and popularity in the United States. He continued to make his home in Russia but left permanently following the Revolution in 1917; he thereafter lived in Switzerland and the United States between extensive European and American tours. While his tours included conducting engagements (he was twice offered, and twice refused, leadership of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), it was his astounding pianistic abilities which won him his greatest glory. Rachmaninov was possessed of a keyboard technique marked by precision, clarity, and a singular legato sense. Indeed, the pianist's hands became the stuff of legend. He had an enormous span -- he could, with his left hand, play the chord C-E flat-G-C-G -- and his playing had a characteristic power, which pianists have described as "cosmic" and "overwhelming." He is, for example, credited with the uncanny ability to discern, and articulate profound, mysterious movements in a musical composition which usually remain undetected by the superficial perception of rhythmic structures.
Fortunately for posterity, Rachmaninov recorded much of his own music, including the four piano concerti and what is perhaps his most beloved work, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934). He became an American citizen a few weeks before his death in Beverly Hills, CA, on March 28, 1943. Read less
Rachmaninov: Piano  Concertos / Stewart Goodyear
Release Date: 04/14/2015   Label: Steinway & Sons  
Catalog: 30047   Number of Discs: 1
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Rachmaninov: Cello Works / Harrell, Ashkenazy
Release Date: 10/31/2007   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 414340   Number of Discs: 1
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Rachmaninov: All-Night Vigil / Bruffy
Release Date: 03/10/2015   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 5148   Number of Discs: 1
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Rachmaninov: The Piano Concertos / Lisitsa, Francis, LSO
Release Date: 03/12/2013   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 001811702   Number of Discs: 2
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Rachmaninov: Piano Works / Andrei Nikolsky
Release Date: 10/11/2005   Label: Arte Nova  
Catalog: 277950   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Preludes (10) for Piano, Op. 23: no 5 in G minor, Alla marcia

 

About This Work
This richly resonant piano work is comprised of two contrasting moods. The first of these is a minor-key march of a Spanish or Italian marching band variety. The melody, built mostly on broken chords, is clearly heard in the bass register surrounded Read more by quick "ta-ta-dah" brass rhythmic figures played on full, repeated chords. The end of the first melodic phrase scatters into wonderfully syncopated and angular figures.

Up to this point, the general dynamic has been that of a greatly held-back intensity (at "piano" level). Suddenly, powerful major harmonies ascend in the "ta-ta-dah" rhythm, propelled on the fourth beat by quick, scale-wise octaves leading into the next chord. This thrilling passage builds from forte to fortissimo and concludes with a concerto-like crescendo of repeated chords over a deep bass pedal point, followed by an electrifying cascade of octaves leading back into the first subject now played with fortissimo energy.

 The theme gradually subsides by a series of chromatic chords and single notes over a single pedal point to a bare whisper. This segues directly into the second mood which is that of a Romantic melody in octaves played over sweeping waves of arpeggios. This lyrical strain recalls a greatly emotional, perhaps nostalgic, experience although the context remains programmatically non-specific providing no clues as to the cause of this feeling. The tempo here is somewhat elastic and rubato. The only element from the march section worked into this mood is the simple figure of two quick sixteenths used to bridge parts of that theme.

The initial mood begins to re-establish itself (at a pianississimo level) and ascends through chromatics back to the initial key, and then continues even further to reach the subdominant key (C minor). Even then the chromatic alterations do not stop until the tension has built up to the point of return of the crashing, ascending major chords of the initial bridge. This proceeds in the original key to the quickly descending octave cascade and the final recapitulation of the march theme at a fortissimo dynamic.

Rachmaninov continues his wonderfully coloristic chromatic alterations of the original chords into the diminishing coda which ends the piece with teasing variations on the "ta-ta-dah" rhythm concluding in a final flurry of arpeggios which ascends to the high treble.

Composed two years earlier than the other preludes in Opus 23, the G Minor Prelude has become a popular work and a standard on piano recitals.

 -- "Blue" Gene Tyranny Read less

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Sergei Rachmaninov


WORKS
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 In C Minor, Op.18 - 1. Moderato
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 In C Minor, Op.18 - 2. Adagio sostenuto
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 In C Minor, Op.18 - 3. Allegro scherzando
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 In D Minor, Op.30 - 1. Allegro ma non tanto
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 In D Minor, Op.30 - 2. Intermezzo (Adagio)
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 In D Minor, Op.30 - 3. Finale (Alla breve)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Introduction (Allegro vivace)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation I (Precedente)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Thema (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation II (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation III (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation IV (Più vivo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation V (Tempo precedente)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation VI (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation VII (Meno mosso, a tempo moderato)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation VIII (Tempo I)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation IX (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation X
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XI (Moderato)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XII (Tempo di Minuetto)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XIII (Allegro)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XIV (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XV (Più vivo. Scherzando)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XVI (Allegretto)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XVII
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XVIII (Andante cantabile)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XIX (A tempo vivace)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XX (Un poco più vivo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XXI (Un poco più vivo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XXII (Un poco più vivo - Alla breve)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XXIII (L'istesso tempo)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (2001 Digital Remaster): Variation XXIV (A tempo un poco meno mosso)
Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances, Op.45 - 1. Non allegro
Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances, Op.45 - 2. Andante con moto (Tempo di valse)
Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances, Op.45 - 3. Lento assai - Allegro vivace
Rachmaninov: Symphony No.2 in E Minor, Op.27 - 1. Largo - Allegro moderato
Rachmaninov: Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op.27 - 2. Allegro molto
Rachmaninov: Symphony No.2 in E Minor, Op.27 - 3. Adagio
Rachmaninov: Symphony No.2 in E Minor, Op.27 - 4. Allegro vivace
1. Grave - Allegro ma non troppo
2. Allegro animato
3. Larghetto
4. Allegro con fuoco
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: Vosstanite...Slava svyatei - 1. Amin'
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: Priidite, poklonimysa
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 2. Blagoslovi, dushe moya', Gospoda
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 3. Blazhen muzh
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 4. Svete tikhii
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 5. Nyne otpushchaeshi
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 6. Bogoroditse Devo
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 7. Shestopsalmie
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 8. Khvalite imya Gospodne
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 9. Blagosloven esi, Gospodi
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 10. Voskresenie Khristovo videvshe
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 11. Velichit dusha moya Gospoda
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 12. Slavoslovie velikoe
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 13. Tropar': Dnes' spasenie
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 14. Tropar': Voskres iz groba
Vespers (All-Night Vigil) Op. 37: 15. Vzbrannoi voevode
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor: I. Allegro Agitato
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor: II. Non Allegro - Lento
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor: III. Allegro Molto


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