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SERGEI RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Russian pianist, conductor and composer



Sergei Rachmaninoff is unique to me in that he is one of my favorite composers and one of my favorite pianists.  His name is legend as the great romantic composer of the 20th Century.  His second piano concerto was the basis of the musical scores for several of the most romantic films ever made, and was the inspiration for what was the ideal of a magnificent piano concerto by a fictional composer in one of the most romantic novels of the 20th Century, Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED.  The beauty and quality of his not inconsiderable output was sustained from his earliest published works to his final masterpiece, Symphonic Dances Op. 45, completed only three years before his death.

But had Sergei Rachmaninoff not composed any works of note, he would still be considered one of the greatest concert pianists in history, perhaps the greatest. While he often claimed, as have many others, that Jozef Hofmann had the right to that title, Hofmann is known to have said that Rachmaninoff was his better.  Fortunately for us all, his recordings speak for themselves.

We have the opportunity to compare two different recordings of Sergei Rachmaninoff playing several of the same pieces. Granted we are comparing piano rolls with analog recordings, but the interpretations are sufficiently unalike that the recording technique certainly doesn't account for the differences. In the case of the G minor prelude, I find the second of the two to be much more to my liking.  The beautiful Melodie from Opus 3 is in two versions, the original and a revision from 1940, only a few years before his death. This is one example in which the composers interpretation is not the ideal, and another, Dutch pianist Cor de Groot , plays the original version of this piece, which I prefer and have played myself, as I think it must be played. And of course, Rachmaninoff's performances of the piano concerti and the rhapsody need no comment from me.

At the bottom of this page is an excellent documentary about Sergei Rachmaninoff.  If you are a lover of this great man, as I am, you will want to see this.

Almost in spite of his standing as the arch-romantic of the 20th century, Sergei Rachmaninoff's Chopin is elegant and refined. He eschews the exaggerated dramatic tendencies of many of his contemporaries in favor of allowing the music to speak for itself. One can almost hear Chopin playing.  And on another page, Rachmaninoff plays solo piano pieces and transcriptions by a number of other composers as well which are worthy of attention and just plain fun to listen to.



Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto 1 in F minor, Op 1
Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra

recorded in 1929


ia Vivace (beginning)



ib Vivace (conclusion)



ii Andante cantabile



iii Allegro scherzando




Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto 2 in C minor, Op 18
i Moderato - ii Adagio sostenuto. Più animato. Tempo I - iii Allegro scherzando
Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra

recorded in 1929




Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto 3 in D minor, Op 30
i Allegro ma non tanto - ii Intermezzo: Adagio - iii Finale: Alla breve
Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra

recorded in 1939/1940




Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto 4 in G minor, Op 40
i Allegro vivace - ii Largo - iii Allegro vivace
Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra

recorded in 1941




Rachmaninoff  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op 43
i Allegro vivace - ii Largo - iii Allegro vivace
Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra

recorded in 1934




Rachmaninoff  from Morceaux de fantaisies, Opus 3


1 "Elegie" in E minor
2 Prelude in C minor
3 "Mélodie" in E major
4 "Polichinelle" in F minor
5 "Sérénade" in B minor

Ampico piano rolls recorded between 1919 and 1927



2 Prelude in C minor
recorded in 1919 (Edison)
recorded in 1923 (Victor)



2 Prelude in C minor
recorded in 1928



3 "Mélodie" in E major (rev 1940)
recorded in 1940



4 "Polichinelle" in F minor
recorded in 1923



5 "Sérénade" in B minor
recorded in 1936




Rachmaninoff  Oriental Sketch (1917)




Rachmaninoff  Polka de W.R.

recorded in 1921




Rachmaninoff  Morceaux de Salon, Op 10

recorded in 1940


3 Barcarolle in G minor



5 Humoresque in G major




Rachmaninoff  Prelude in G minor, Op 23~5

Ampico piano roll recorded between 1919 and 1929



and an RCA Victor gramophone recording




Rachmaninoff  Preludes, Op 32


3 in E major
recorded in 1940



5 in G major
recorded in 1920



6 in F minor
recorded in 1940



7 in F Major
recorded in 1940



10 in G major
recorded in 1940



12 in G minor
recorded in 1921




Rachmaninoff  Étude-Tableau in C major, Op 33~2

recorded in 1925




Rachmaninoff

Étude-Tableau in C major, Op 33~2
Étude-Tableau in E major, Op 33~7
Moment Musical in
E minor, Op 16~2




Rachmaninoff  Étude-Tableau in A minor, Op 39~6

recorded in 1925




Rachmaninoff  Song Transcriptions

"Daisies" Op 38~3
"Lilacs" Op 21~5




Rachmaninoff  Polka Italienne
Sergei and Natalia Rachmaninoff play 4 hands

Recorded in 1938




The Harvest Of Sorrow

A documentary about the life of Sergei Rachmaninoff through the use of home movies, concert footage, and interviews. Valery Gergiev as narrator and John Gielgud voices Rachmaninoff's diaries
directed by Tony Palmer










For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.



And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse



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