Sergey Rachmaninoff  
Sergey Rachmaninoff

Sergei Vassilievich Rachmaninoff
Sergey Rachmaninoff, in full Sergey Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff, Rachmaninoff also spelled Rakhmaninov, or Rachmaninov (born March 20 [April 1, New Style], 1873, Oneg, near Semyonovo, Russia—died March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.), composer who was the last great figure of the tradition of Russian Romanticism and a leading piano virtuoso of his time. He is especially known for his piano concerti and the piece for piano and orchestra titled Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934).

Rachmaninoff in the early 1900s, before he
graduated from the Moscow Conservatory

Early life
Rachmaninoff was born on an estate belonging to his grandparents, situated near Lake Ilmen in the Novgorod district. His father was a retired army officer and his mother the daughter of a general. The boy was destined to become an army officer until his father lost the entire family fortune through risky financial ventures and then deserted the family. Young Sergey’s cousin Aleksandr Siloti, a well-known concert pianist and conductor, sensed the boy’s abilities and suggested sending him to the noted teacher and pianist Nikolay Zverev in Moscow for his piano studies. It is to Zverev’s strict disciplinarian treatment of the boy that musical history owes one of the great piano virtuosos of the 20th century. For his general education and theoretical subjects in music, Sergey became a pupil at the Moscow Conservatory.

At age 19 he graduated from the conservatory, winning a gold medal for his one-act opera Aleko (after Aleksandr Pushkin’s poem Tsygany [“The Gypsies”]). His fame and popularity, both as composer and concert pianist, were launched by two compositions: the Prelude in C-sharp Minor, played for the first time in public on September 26, 1892, and his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, which had its first performance in Moscow on October 27, 1901. The former piece, although it first brought Rachmaninoff to public attention, was to haunt him throughout his life—the prelude was constantly requested by his concert audiences. The concerto, his first major success, revived his hopes after a trying period of inactivity.

In his youth, Rachmaninoff was subject to emotional crises over the success or failure of his works as well as his personal relationships. Self-doubt and uncertainty carried him into deep depressions, one of the most severe of which followed the failure, on its first performance in March 1897, of his Symphony No. 1 in D Minor. The symphony was poorly performed, and the critics condemned it. During this period, while brooding over an unhappy love affair, he was taken to a psychiatrist, Nikolay Dahl, who is often credited with having restored the young composer’s self-confidence, thus enabling him to write the Piano Concerto No. 2 (which is dedicated to Dahl).

Rachmaninoff in front of a giant Redwood tree,
California, 1919


Major creative activity
At the time of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Rachmaninoff was a conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre. Although more of an observer than a person politically involved in the revolution, he went with his family, in November 1906, to live in Dresden. There he wrote three of his major scores: the Symphony No. 2 in E Minor (1907), the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead (1909), and the Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor (1909). The last was composed especially for his first concert tour of the United States, highlighting his much-acclaimed pianistic debut on November 28, 1909, with the New York Symphony under Walter Damrosch. Piano Concerto No. 3 requires great virtuosity from the pianist; its last movement is a bravura section as dazzling as any ever composed. In Philadelphia and Chicago he appeared with equal success in the role of conductor, interpreting his own symphonic compositions. Of these, the Symphony No. 2 is the most significant: it is a work of deep emotion and haunting thematic material. While touring, he was invited to become permanent conductor of the Boston Symphony, but he declined the offer and returned to Russia in February 1910.

The one notable composition of Rachmaninoff’s second period of residence in Moscow was his choral symphony The Bells (1913), based on Konstantin Balmont’s Russian translation of the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. This work displays considerable ingenuity in the coupling of choral and orchestral resources to produce striking imitative and textural effects.

Sergei Vassilievich Rachmaninoff.
Portrait by Donald Sheridan.


Later years
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Rachmaninoff went into his second self-imposed exile, dividing his time between residences in Switzerland and the United States. Although for the next 25 years he spent most of his time in an English-speaking country, he never mastered its language or thoroughly acclimatized himself. With his family and a small circle of friends, he lived a rather isolated life. He missed Russia and the Russian people—the sounding board for his music, as he said. And this alienation had a devastating effect on his formerly prolific creative ability. He produced little of real originality but rewrote some of his earlier work. Indeed, he devoted himself almost entirely to concertizing in the United States and Europe, a field in which he had few peers. His only substantial works from this period are the Symphony No. 3 in A Minor (1936), another expression of sombre, Slavic melancholy, and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra, a set of variations on a violin caprice by Niccolò Paganini. Rachmaninoff’s last major work, the Symphonic Dances for orchestra, was composed in 1940, about two years before his death.

Rachmaninoff’s music, although written mostly in the 20th century, remains firmly entrenched in the 19th-century musical idiom. He was, in effect, the final expression of the tradition embodied by Tchaikovsky—a melodist of Romantic dimensions still writing in an era of explosive change and experimentation.

Victor Ilyich Seroff
Richard Taruskin

Encyclopædia Britannica

Rachmaninoff at the piano (1936 or before)
The Best of Rachmaninoff
1. Concerto para Piano e Orquestra #2, em Dó Menor, Opus 18 – Moderato
2. Concerto para Piano e Orquestra #2, em Dó Menor, Opus 18 – Adagio Sostenuto
3. Concerto para Piano e Orquestra #2, em Dó Menor, Opus 18 – Allegro Scherzando
4. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Introdução
5. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 1
6. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Tema
7. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 2
8. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 3
9. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 4
10. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 5
11. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 6
12. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 7
13. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 8
14. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 9
15. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 10
16. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 11
17. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 12
18. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 13
19. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 14
20. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 15
21. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 16
22. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 17
23. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 18
24. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 19
25. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 20
26. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 21
27. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 22
28. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 23
29. Rapsódia Sobre Um Tema de Pananini, Opus 43 – Variação 24
30. Vocalise Opus 34, #14
31. Prelúdio Opus 3, #2 – Cinco Peças Fantasia
Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18, Lang Lang
1. Moderato Più vivo Allegro
2. Adagio sostenuto
3. Allegro scherzando
Lang Lang Piano
The Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev Conductor
Rachmaninoff plays Piano Concerto 2
The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, is a concerto for piano and orchestra composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901. The second and third movements were first performed with the composer as soloist on 2 December 1900. The complete work was premiered, again with the composer as soloist, on 9 November 1901, with his cousin Alexander Siloti conducting. This video contains all three movements played by Rachmaninoff.
Rachmaninoff plays Piano Concerto 3
The Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30, composed in 1909 by Sergei Rachmaninoff has the reputation of being one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire.
Martha Argerich - Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, op.30
Martha Argerich
Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Riccardo Chailly

Sender Freies Berlin, Berlin.
December 1982.

Rachmaninov, pianowerken voor 2, 4 en 10 handen - Rachmaninoff pianoworks - Live Concert - HD
Vijf toppianisten spelen werken van Sergei Rachmaninov
Gedichten opgedragen door Nina Targan-Mouravi?

Hanna Shybayeva:
Etudes-Tableaux op.33 no. 8 Moderato - in g (1911)
Etudes-Tableaux op.33 no. 7 Allegro con fuoco - in Es (1916-1917)

Mariana Izman:
Oriental sketch - in Bes (1917)
Morceau de fantaisie "Delmo" in g (1899)
Transcriptie van Rimsky-Korsakov's 'The flight of the bumblebee' - in a (1929?)

Nino Gvetadze:
Préludes op.23 nr.6 Andante - in Es
Préludes op.23 nr.7 Allegro - in c

Thomas Beijer:
Moments musicaux op.16 Andante cantabile - in b (1896)

Pieter-Jelle de Boer:
Transcriptie van Pieter-Jelle de Boer voor orgel (2012)
Uit Symfonische Dansen op.45: Non Allegro (1940)

Hanna Shybayeva & Thomas Beijer:
Six Morceaux, op.11: nr. 3 Theme Russe en nr. 6 Slava!

Pieter-Jelle de Boer:
Morceaux de salon op.10 Barcarolle -- in g (1893-1894)

Mariana Izman & Nino Gvetadze:
Suite nr.2, op.17: derde deel (Romance) en vierde deel (Tarantella)

Hanna Shybayeva, Mariana Izman, Nino Gvetadze, Pieter-Jelle de Boer en Thomas Beijer:
Suite nr.1, op.5: derde deel "Tranen" in G klein in een bewerking door Thomas Beijer voor 2 piano's 10 handen
Polka Italienne in een bewerking door Thomas Beijer voor 2 piano's 10 handen

Rachmaninoff: Symphony no.2 op.27
Rachmaninov: Symfonie no.2 op. 27
Radio Filharmonisch Orkest olv. Eivind Gullberg Jensen
3 oktober Concertgebouw Amsterdam
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances op.45
Radio Filharmonisch Orkest o.l.v. Edward Gardner

18 december 2011, 11:00 uur, Grote Zaal van het Concertgebouw Amsterdam.

Ivo Pogorelich plays Rachmaninoff Six Moments Musicaux complete - live 2001
Ivo Pogorelich playing Rachmaninoff's 6 Musical Moments, op. 16, live in Utrecht, Netherlands 2001. This is the complete set (I had already uploaded no. 1 separately).
1 - 0:00
2 - 10:16
3 - 14:44
4 - 25:55
5 - 29:02
6 - 35:16
Rachmaninoff - Prelude in C sharp minor & G minor
Performed in Seoul Arts Center by Georgii Cherkin - piano
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances op.45 - Live concert HD
Radio Filharmonisch Orkest o.l.v. Edward Gardner

18 december 2011, 11:00 uur, Grote Zaal van het Concertgebouw Amsterdam.

Rachmaninoff: Concerto for piano No 2 & 3 by Denis Matsuev
Recorded at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow, on 2 April 2013

Denis Matsuev
Leonard Slatkin
SAT Orchestra of Russia

On Mezzo

1) Rachmaninoff - Concerto for piano No 2
2) Rachmaninoff - Concerto for piano and orchestra No 3
3) Rachmaninoff - Rachmaninoff vocalise

Rachmaninoff - Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
twenty-four variations on Paganini's XXIV Caprice,
for piano and large orchestra

Vladimir Ashkenazy
London Symphony Orch.
André Previn

Ivo Pogorelich plays Rachmaninoff Sonata no. 2 - live 1991
Ivo Pogorelich playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Sonata no. 2, op. 36, live in Nuremberg, December 1991. I have also uploaded a recording of Ivo playing this work in Germany in 2005.
Rachmaninov : The Isle of the Dead - Ashkenazy
Sergej Rachmaninov - Vespers (All-Night Vigil), for alto, tenor & chorus, Op. 37
Sergey Rachmaninov - Vespers. Mass for mixed choir, Op 37
Valery Polyansky, conductor

Recorded live at the Smolensk Cathedral

1. O Come and Worship
2. Praise the Lord, O My Soul (Greek Chant)
3. Blessed is the Man
4. Joyful Light (Kiev Chant)
5. Now Lettest Thou Depart (Kiev Chant)
6. Hail Mary
7. Hexapsalmos / O Praise Our God (Znamenny Chant)
8. Blessed be the Lord (Znamenny Chant)
9. Christ's Resurrection
10. My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord
11. Greater Doxology (Znamenny Chant)
12. This Day of Salvation (Troparion, Znamenny Chant) / Christ is Risen from the Dead (Troparion) / Thanksgiving to the Mother of God

Sergei Rachmaninoff - Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom Op. 31
Сергей Рахманинов - Литургия Иоанна Златоуста для смешанного хора a cappella, Op.31
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff - Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, for mixed choir a cappella, Op. 31

Вокальный ансамбль солистов Камерной филармонии Санкт-Петербурга
п/у Ольги Ступневой:
Ирина Михалкина (11)
Зоя Церерина (3,9)
Станислав Леонтьев (2)
Виталий Золаторёв (9,10,17)
Леонид Гладков (2,6)

Vocal Ensemble Soloists Chamber Philharmonic St Petersburg
Conductor: Olga Stupneva
Irina Mihalkina (11)
Zoe Tsererina (3.9)
Stanislav Leontiev (2)
Vitaly Zolatorev (9,10,17)
Leonid Gladkov (2,6)

1. Благовесть (Ringing of church bells)
2. Великая ектения (The Great Litany)
3. Благослови, душе моя, Господа (The First Antiphon: Bless the Lord, О My Soul)
4. Слава Отцу. Единородный Сыне (The Second Antiphon: Glory Be to the Father - Only-Begotten Son)
5. Во царствие Твоем (The Third Antiphon: In Your Kingdom)
6. Приидите, поклонимся (The Little Entrance: Come, Let Us Worship)
7. Господи, спаси благочестивыя. Святый Боже (Трисвятое) (Trisagion: Lord, We Pray That You May Be Merciful)
8. Иже Херувимы (Cherubic Hymn)
9. Верую (Credo)
10. Милость мира (The Eucharistic Prayer: A Mercy Of Peace)
11. Тебе поем (We Praise Тhee)
12. Достойно есть (Hymn to the Mother of God: It Is Truly Meet)
13. Отче наш (The Lord's Prayer: Our Father)
14. Хвалите Господа (Communion Hymn: Praise the Lord From The Heavens)
15. Благословен градый. Видехом свет истинный (Blessed Is He - We Have Seen the Light)
17. Буди имя Господне благословенно (Blessed Be the Name of the Lord)
18. Благовесть (Ringing of church bells)

Elisabeth Söderström: The complete "14 romances Op. 34" (Rachmaninov)
14 romances (Op. 34):
I. Muza 00:00
II. V dushe u kazhdogo iz nas 04:29
III. Burya 06:44
IV. Veter perelyotny 09:10
V. Arion 12:26
VI. Voskresheniye Lazarya 15:16
VII. Ne mozhet byt′! 17:59
VIII. Muzyka 19:53
IX. Ty znal yego 22:14
X. Sey den′, ya pomnyu 25:03
XI. Obrochnik 26:33
XII. Kakoye schast′ye 30:23
XIII. Dissonans 32:34
XIV. Vocalise 39:13

Rachmaninov, Sergiej (1873-1943) -composer
Elisabeth Söderström -soprano
Vladimir Ashkenazy -piano

The first, "The Muse," the third, "Storm," and the fifth, "Arion" are all texts by Pushkin. The first tells of the Muse teaching a child how to play and compose music; the mood is contemplative at the outset but builds to a powerful climax. The next deals with a maiden on a cliff surrounded by a violent storm. Rachmaninov's music is furious and exciting, though the quiet and subtle conclusion matches the poet's view that the maiden's beauty is greater than the powers of nature. The third tells of the eponymous Greek poet's survival of a shipwreck, and the dramatic music convincingly portrays the struggle in the deep waters. The second and fourth songs, "In the soul of each of us" (Apollon Korinfsky) and "A passing breeze" (Konstantin Balmont), are both effective. The former deals with sorrow and emotional swings, the music appropriately dark, and the latter, a fantasy about the wind assessing the powers of night and day, offers mostly delicate music with relaxed harmonies.
The six and seventh items here, "The Raising of Lazarus" (Alexei Khomyakov) and "It cannot be" (Apollon Maykov) deal with religious subjects and the death of a daughter, respectively. The music for the former is not a success, but that for the Maykov text is grim, tense, and full of grief in its passionate outpourings.
The eighth and thirteenth songs are on texts by Yakov Polonsky. "Music," about the mesmerizing sounds of that art form, is given an appropriately ethereal mood. The thirteenth, "Dissonance," is not a follow-up to "Music," but deals with a woman's erotic fantasies. This is by far the longest song in the collection, and the composer's subtle writing throughout, with many key and tempo changes, place it among the best here.
The ninth and tenth songs are on texts by Feodor Tyutchev. "You knew him" tells of a poet's varying moods, with music that is dramatic and at times harsh, but effectively so. "This day I remember" is the poet's recollections of the day his beloved revealed her love for him. The music is rather direct and quite delicate throughout, Rachmaninov's favorite in the collection.
Texts for the next two songs come from Afanasy Fet. The eleventh, "The Peasant," offers praise to God with music that is powerful but somewhat tedious in its rigid, unchanging rhythm. "What happiness" is a love poem with music that deftly encompasses the text: the racing drive of the piano expresses the poet's excitement at being alone with his beloved, a brief relative calm is interrupted by a return to the fast tempo to portray the torments of love. The music builds to an intense, impassioned climax.
The fourteenth song, "Vocalise," is wordless with a mournful mood, featuring a richly Romantic melody which descends slowly, then soars high before heading downward once again. This became the most popular song in the collection.
  Classical Music Timeline

Instruments Through the Ages

Classical Music History - Composers and Masterworks