Sergei RachmaninoffFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia(Redirected fromRachmaninoff)"Rachmaninoff" redirects here. For other uses, seeRachmaninoff (disambiguation).
Sergei RachmaninoffSergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff(Russian: ;Russian pronunciation:[srej rxmannf]; 1 April[O.S.20 March]1873 28 March 1943) was aRussian-born composer, pianist, and conductor.Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives ofRomanticismin Russian classical music.Early influences ofTchaikovsky,Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom that included a pronounced lyricism, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity, and a tonal palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colors.The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output. He made a point of using his own skills as a performer to explore fully the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Even in his earliest works he revealed a sure grasp of idiomatic piano writing and a striking gift for melody.Contents[hide] 1Life 1.1Childhood and youth 1.2Graduation 1.3Setbacks and recovery 1.4Emigration and career in the West 1.5Friendship with Vladimir Horowitz 1.6Illness and death 2Works 2.1Compositional style 2.2Fluctuating reputation 3Pianism 3.1Technique 3.2Tone 3.3Memory 3.4Interpretations 3.5Speculations about Marfan syndrome and acromegaly 4Recordings 4.1Phonograph 4.2Piano rolls 5Media 5.1As performer 5.2As composer 6Cultural references 7See also 8References 9Bibliography 10External links 10.1Free scores
Rachmaninoff at age 10Childhood and youth
Rachmaninoff at the piano, in the early 1900s, before he graduated from theMoscow ConservatoryThe Rachmaninoff family was a part of an "oldaristocracy", where all of the attitude but none of the money remained. The family, ofTatardescent, had been in the service of the Russiantsarssince the 16th century, and had strong musical and military leanings. The composer's father, Vasily Arkadyevich (18411916), an amateur pianist andarmy officer, married Lyubov Petrovna Butakova (18531929), gained five estates as a dowry, and had three boys and three girls.Sergei was born on 1 April 1873 at the estate of Semyonovo, nearGreat Novgorodinnorth-westernRussia.When he was four, his mother gave him casual piano lessons,but it was his paternal grandfather, Arkady Alexandrovich, who brought Anna Ornatskaya, a teacher fromSaint Petersburg, to teach Sergei in 1882. Ornatskaya remained for "two or three years", until Vasily had to auction off their home due to his financial incompetencethe five estates had been reduced to one; he was described as "a wastrel, a compulsive gambler, a pathological liar, and a skirt chaser"and they moved to a small flat in Saint Petersburg.Ornatskaya returned to her home, and arranged for Sergei to study at theSaint Petersburg Conservatory, which he entered in 1883, at age ten. That year his sister Sofia died ofdiphtheria, and his feckless father left the family, with their approval, forMoscow.Sergei's maternal grandmother stepped in to help raise the children, especially focusing on their spiritual life. She regularly took Sergei toRussian Orthodoxservices, where he was first exposed to theliturgicalchants and thechurch bellsof the city, which would later permeate many of his compositions.Another important musical influence was his sister Yelena's involvement in theBolshoi Theater. She was just about to join the company, being offered coaching and private lessons, but she fell ill and died ofpernicious anemiaat the age of 18. As a respite from this tragedy, grandmother Butakova brought him to a farm retreat on theVolkhov River, where he had a boat and developed a love forrowing.Having been spoiled in this way by his grandmother, he became lazy and failed hisgeneral educationclasses, altering hisreport cards, in whatNikolai Rimsky-Korsakovwould later call a period of "purely Russian self-delusion and laziness."In 1885, back at the Conservatory, Sergei played at important events often attended byGrand Duke Konstantinand other important people, but he failed his spring academic examinations and Ornatskaya notified his mother that his admission might be revoked.Lyubov consulted with her nephew (by marriage)Alexander Siloti, already an accomplished pianist studying underFranz Liszt. After appraising his cousin's pianism and listening skills, Siloti recommended that Sergei attend theMoscow Conservatoryto study with his own original teacher anddisciplinarian,Nikolai Zverev.Graduation
While living with the Satins, Rachmaninoff (standing, second from left) would vacation atIvanovka, their summer house. He would marry his cousin Natalia Satina (sitting, second from left).Neighboring families would come to visit, and Rachmaninoff would find his first romance in the Skalon family, with Vera, the youngest of three daughters. The mother would have none of that, and he was forbidden to write to her, so he corresponded with her older sister, Natalia, and from these letters much information abouthis early compositionscan be extracted.In the spring of 1891, he took his final piano examination at the Moscow Conservatory and passed with honors. He moved to Ivanovka with Siloti, and composed some songs and began what would become hisPiano Concerto No. 1(Op. 1). During his final studies at the Conservatory he completedYouth Symphony, a one-movement symphonic piece,Prince Rostislav, asymphonic poem, andThe Rock(Op. 7), afantasiafor orchestra.He gave his first independent concert on 11 February 1892, premiering hisTrio lgiaqueNo. 1, with violinist David Kreyn and cellistAnatoliy Brandukov. He performed the first movement of his first piano concerto on 29 March 1892 in an over-long concert consisting of entire works of most of the composition students at the Conservatory.His final composition for the Conservatory wasAleko, a one-actoperabased on the poemThe GypsiesbyAlexander Pushkin, which Rachmaninoff completed while staying with his father in Moscow.It was first performed on 19 May 1892, and although he responded with a pessimistic, "the opera is sure to fail," it was so successful, theBolshoi Theateragreed to produce it, starringFeodor Chaliapin.It gained him the Great Gold Medal, awarded only twice before (toSergei TaneyevandArseny Koreshchenko), and has since had many more productions than his later works,The Miserly Knight(Op. 24, 1904) andFrancesca da Rimini(Op. 25, 1905). The Conservatory issued him adiplomaon 29May 1892, and now, at the age of 19, he could officially style himself "Free Artist."Rachmaninoff continued to compose, publishing at this time his Six Songs (Op. 4) and Two Pieces (Op. 2). He spent the summer of 1892 on the estate of Ivan Konavalov, a rich landowner in theKostroma Oblast, and moved back with the Satins in theArbat District.His publisher was slow in paying, so Rachmaninoff took an engagement at the Moscow Electrical Exhibition, where he premiered his landmarkPrelude in C-sharp minor(Op. 3, No. 2).This small piece, part of a set of five pieces calledMorceaux de fantaisie, was received well, and is one of his most enduring pieces.He spent the summer of 1893 inLebedynwith some friends, where he composedFantaisie-Tableaux(Suite No. 1, Op. 5) and hisMorceaux de salon(Op. 10).At the summer's end, he moved back to Moscow, and at Sergei Taneyev's house discussed withTchaikovskythe possibility of his conductingThe Rockat its premiere. However, because it had to be premiered in Moscow, notEurope, where Tchaikovsky was touring,Vasily Safonovconducted it instead, and the two met soon after forZverev's funeral. Rachmaninoff had a short excursion to conductAlekoinKiev, and on his return, received the news aboutTchaikovsky's unexpected deathon 6 November 1893. Almost immediately, on the same day, he began work on hisTrio lgiaqueNo. 2, just as Tchaikovsky had quickly written hisTrio in A minorafterNikolai Rubinstein's death.Setbacks and recoveryThe suddendeath of Tchaikovskyin 1893 was a great blow to young Rachmaninoff; he immediately began writing a secondTrio lgiaquein his memory, revealing the depth and sincerity of his grief in the music's overwhelming aura of gloom.HisFirst Symphony(Op. 13, 1896) was premired on 28 March 1897 in one of a long-running series of "Russian Symphony Concerts", but was brutally panned by critic andnationalistcomposerCsar Cuiwho likened it to a depiction of theten plagues of Egypt, suggesting it would be admired by the "inmates" of a music conservatory in hell.The deficiencies of the performance, conducted byAlexander Glazunov, were not commented on.Alexander Ossovskyin his memoir about Rachmaninofftells, first hand, a story about this event.In Ossovsky's opinion, Glazunov made poor use of rehearsal time, and the concert program itself, which contained two other premires, was also a factor. Natalia Satina, later Rachmaninoff's wife, and other witnesses suggested that Glazunov, who was by all accounts an alcoholic, may have been drunk, although this was never intimated by Rachmaninoff.
The failure ofSymphony No. 1(1897) long bothered Rachmaninoff.After the poor reception of his First Symphony, Rachmaninoff fell into a period of deep depression that lasted three years, during which he wrote almost nothing. One stroke of good fortune came fromSavva Mamontov, a famous Russian industrialist and patron of the arts, who two years earlier had founded the Moscow Private Russian Opera Company. He offered Rachmaninoff the post of assistant conductor for the 18978 season and the cash-strapped composer accepted. The company included the great bassoFeodor Chaliapinwho would become a lifelong friend.During this period he became engaged to fellow pianist Natalia Satin