Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sergei Rachmaninoff's name will always be associated with the piano. As one of the greatest composer pianists of the 20th century, he stands alongside his younger contemporaries Prokoviev and Mednter as the last in a long line of great composer pianists that reaches back to Mozart and Beethoven 100 years before his first works for piano.
These 9CDs chart his progress as a composer for his instrument, starting with the earliest works from the late 1880s. These show the influences of Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Chopin, with Liszt sometimes detectable in the more thunderous passages. It was the op3 Prelude in C sharp minor that finally gave voice to his unique musical personality, full of brooding passion. This work was praised by
Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninov's teacher Arensky. The early masterpiece, the Variations on a Theme by Chopin date from 1903, and was quickly followed by the 1st Sonata, and the 13 preludes op32. These all date from the period that saw the composition of the 2nd Symphony, and The Isle of the Dead. The ferociously demanding 2nd Sonata was a work that was much revised by the composer (today many pianists play a hybrid of the original and the revised edition), who went to his death still unhappy with the work, even though it was a success at its premiere.
His last works for solo piano date from the American years, and the Variations on a Theme by Corelli (1932) were met with a cool reception at the premier in Montreal in 1932. Subsequent performances were punctuated with coughing that distressed Rachmaninov so much he wrote to his friend and fellow composer Medtner 'whenever the coughing increased, I left out the next variation...in one concert the coughing was so bad I managed only 10 variations (out of 20), the record number was in New York, where I managed 18. However, I hope you'll play through all of them, and won't 'cough'.
The work is a masterpiece, however in 1930s his music was drifting out of fashion, the 3rd Symphony, 4th Piano Concerto and the Symphonic Dances all had poor receptions, and the low point came with the disgraceful Grove 5 edtion entry on the composer. Happily today his reputation is restored as one of the greatest pianist composers of all time.
Works on This Recording
Work(s) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Garrick Ohlsson (Piano),
Nikolai Lugansky (Piano),
Michael Ponti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
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