Category: rachmaninoff

la-nero-maestro: Requiem For Sergei Vasilyevic…


Requiem For Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff 🎵

(April 1, 1873 – March 28, 1943)

Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18 : I. Moderato

By Composer Sergei Rachmaninoff

Performed By Pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Conductor Fritz Reiner And The Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Happy Birthday,Sergei!

mikrokosmos: Rachmaninoff – Morceaux de Fantai…


RachmaninoffMorceaux de Fantaisie, op.3 (1892)

I was going to make a post only on THE prelude today, but I remembered that I also adored the elegy, and I thought I may as well talk a bit about the full suite. “Fantasy Pieces”, again following the Romantic tradition of free-form music, was written by Rachmaninoff when he was just 19. Think of that! Usually when we talk about composers who wrote great stuff early on, we think Mozart or maybe Beethoven. But still a teenager, Rachmaninoff wrote a suite of gorgeous music, one of the pieces here would become his most popular and loved [to his chagrin]. He wrote the prelude first, and then the rest of the pieces came after, and he dedicated the suite to his teacher Anton Arensky. They are the accumulation of his studies, and show a shift towards a more mature style with craftsmanship and personality. The suite is not necessarily meant to be played as a group, and so you often hear the prelude as a stand-alone work. The opening Elegy starts off like a very darkened Chopin nocturne, and the main melody is full of the expected mourning and disturbingly tragic. This kind of darkness touches in on a lot of Rachmaninoff’s music. The melody sometimes sings out in one voice, sometimes another joins in harmony. And the music isn’t afraid to take sudden harmonic shifts. The middle section has an uplifting melody in the left hand as the right hand glitters over it. After an energetic transition, we come back to the bleak soundworld of the opening, the melody an octave lower. The coda grows louder with passionate descending thirds, and then the final bars go into the bass. The prelude is the most iconic work, and its popularity transcends the rest of the suite. Rachmaninoff was bothered by it the older he got, thinking that the love for the prelude of his teen years overshadowed ‘better’ music he wrote later. But it’s popularity is understandable. It opens with octaves going deep in the bass, part of the nickname “The Bells of Moscow”. They thunder underneath a main melody made up of thick homophonic chords, that has an almost yearning quality. The middle section is made of broken notes falling over each other chromatically, and eventually grows into a frantic passage of chords before exploding into a restatement of the opening, with dense chords slamming in the bass and then the hands jump to play the melody in full chords higher up. For clarity, the music here is written across four staffs. The intensity fills the room with immense pathos. That sounds like overkill with the adjectives maybe, but it does feel like music for an existential crisis. The music calms down a bit before dying away in softer chords, the bells ring out in the distance. After the angst of the opening, we are finally given a break in the form of the “melody”, which softly plays over gorgeous accompaniment, and as with the other works you hear premonitions of mature Rachmaninoff. Using chromaticism to murk up the harmonies, holding onto a gorgeous melody that seems to exist beyond the rhythm of the music, etc. The melody organically develops into an intense passage of chords that then break out into a pretty flourish, before coming back to the opening. The fourth movement, “Punchinella”, in reference to the same Commedia dell’arte character, is whimsical and full of joy, kind of foreshadowing Ravel’s “Alborada del gracioso”, and so with dense chords the music plays around on the keyboard. The middle section again has a main melody in the left hand while the right decorates over it, again keeping in the good mood but more genuine. Then we come back to the opening with its shifting grace notes and fun rhythm. The piece ends with staccato notes across the keyboard. The final work, the Serenade, opens with the melody alone, and comes off as “exotic” music, that is it follows folk writing scales that could be Spanish. It continues the brighter spirit that the second half of the suite has been carrying, while also dazzling with piano technique. Despite being in a minor key and ending with heavy chords, it is still a ‘happy’ piece.


1. Elegie

2. Prelude

3. Melody

4. Polichinelle

5. Serenade

Pianist: Vladimir Ashkenazy

mikrokosmos: Rachmaninoff – Prelude op.23 no.2…


RachmaninoffPrelude op.23 no.2 in Bb Major (1903)

There are a handful of composers in history who wrote sets of music where each piece is written in one of the 24 possible keys. Bach had his Well Tempered Klavier, and after him, Chopin followed suit with his 24 Preludes. Liszt, Scriabin, Shostakovich, Alkan, and Rachmaninoff all have contributions to this model. But funny enough, Rachmaninoff seems to be the only one who didn’t start writing with this goal in mind. He first wrote a prelude for his early suite Morceaux de Fantaisie [which is one of his most popular works], and then he wrote ten preludes in different keys under op.23, and finally he finished off the cycle with thirteen preludes in op.32. This prelude is an outstanding display of virtuosity and power. It opens with an awkward rhythmic bass line that repeats under a melody built out of a figuration that seems more like an etude. It plays a triumphant melody, and each hand follows a different rhythm that has to lay over each other. After a dense transition in chords, the music thins out a bit with glittering textures, and a soft melody played in the left hand that feels like meandering through a dream. Soon we come back to the energy of the opening in another transition, and with a large scale run down the keyboard we slam back into the opening. The music repeats with the same enthusiasm, and we end in a Chopin-esque flourish, looking back at the daydream, before hitting us with the final affirming chords. It’s an awesome showpiece that I’ve loved since high school. Back then, I used to day dream a lot in class [I shouldn’t say this because I’m not diagnosed but I’m about 80% sure I have ADHD] and back then while the teacher would blabber on, I’d sneak my headphones through my sleeves, and doodle in my notebook whatever imagery came to mind as I listened to music. This piece made me think of a woman riding a pegasus over the ocean as the sun sets.

Pianist: Vladimir Ashkenazy

mikrokosmos: Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto no…


RachmaninoffPiano Concerto no.2 in c minor, op.18 (1901)

Rach 2. Where do I even begin with such an iconic piece of music? It sits alongside Beethoven’s Emperor, Tchaikovsky’s first, Grieg’s, and…well, Rachmaninoff’s third, as being among the most beloved piano concertos ever written. It also makes for a great motivational success story. Rachmaninoff struggled a lot in his early music career, and after his first symphony’s premiere was a failure [and I will put all the blame on Glazunov who came drunk, another reason not to listen to his music], and the stress of it all made Rachmaninoff extremely depressed. He was able to get out of depression and writers block through therapy, and the creative output in this period produced some of his most popular works; the cello sonata, the second suite for two pianos, the Chopin variations, the second symphony…and of course, this concerto. Because it is so popular, it’s usually a lot of people’s introduction to classical music. It was one of the first major pieces I fell in love with way back in high school. And honestly, it’s something that I can listen to over and over and it never gets old. The melodies are full of life and the construction is so fresh and almost organic. Because I’d listened to it so often I’ve memorized the first movement by heart. It is also one of my favorite pieces to listen to in autumn. It opens with distant “bells” at the lower end of the piano, slow chords get louder and louder until a declarative statement throws us into a pianistic flourish while the orchestra plays the main theme over it. A very long theme, songlike, almost folksy but somewhat ‘jazzy’. That quality, Rachmaninoff’s extended harmonies, is what would cause so many pop singers to quote the melodies from this concerto. After the first melody, we get a little dramatic flourish that takes us into the B melody, a “love-song” feeling melody that is longing and passionate. The orchestra and piano are woven together as this hyper-romantic melody swells like an ocean of sound, with aching harmonies that makes me feel like I’m floating. The dramatic opening melody comes back, the music gets sinister and through this crescendo, the full stage is shaking like an earthquake before the opening melody bursts forward like a Russian army march. The second half of the opening melody is played primarily piano solo, light accompaniment, with less of the intensity. Then, one of the gorgeous moments in all of Rachmaninoff’s music, the horns play out the B melody, what was like a love-song is now a haunting melody that feels so distant, like a shadowed memory. We stay in a dreamlike atmosphere for a bit, until the piano starts to speed up and rush the rest of the orchestra into the coda. The way that the music exists as a constant flow of notes from beginning to end makes this one of the best constructed first movements I know about. The slow movement is also gorgeous, another inspiration for pop singers through history. It opens with a choral on the strings, before the piano comes in playing like a harp. Then the flute comes in with a duet, playing the main theme. The clarinets join, and the orchestra passes the main melody around each other along with the piano. It is a nostalgic melody, one of those magical moments in music that forces you to recall some bittersweet memory in your past. It also feels through-composed, the melody keeps going as if in one long breath. There are some flourishes, and a hint of a rising optimistic theme, breaking out into very hyperactive music that feels out of place for a slow movement but somehow works here. After repeating the melody, the movement comes to a close. The last movement comes in like a little march, that soon gets dramatic and bouncy, almost operatic. The main theme of the first movement comes back here and there, along with hints at the dies irae chant. The “b” melody here is uplifting, quiet and calm on the orchestra before the piano repeats it with delicacy. The drama repeats, and then the soft melody repeats, and we get hints of the build-up melody from the second movement. It all comes together in a coda that first has virtuosic runs in the piano, and after the intense build up, the climax is otherworldly. The B melody is transformed into some kind of anthem, like a celebration of the human spirit against adversity. Here is the most passionate music of the concerto, before the rush brings us into a fun final few bars that forces us to smile.


1. Moderato 

2. Adagio sostenuto – Più animato 

3. Allegro scherzando

senfonikankara:Rachmaninov | Prelude Op.23 No….


Rachmaninov | Prelude Op.23 No.5

Olga Scheps, piano



Rachmaninoff: Variations on a Theme of Chopin, Op.22 (Chochieva)

lavilladeste:Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays Rachmani…


Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays Rachmaninov: Morceaux de Fantasie “Elegie” at B…

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano



Yeol Eum Son- 2017.07.20 S.Rachmaninov ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,…