Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
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1873-04-01
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/44b16e44-da77-4580-b851-0d765904573e
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov

Biography

Rachmaninov was born into a family of Russian landowners in financial decline and his parents separated when he was still at school. Despite this, family connections were important: he married a cousin, and another cousin, the pianist Alexander Siloti, taught ...

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Biography

Rachmaninov was born into a family of Russian landowners in financial decline and his parents separated when he was still at school. Despite this, family connections were important: he married a cousin, and another cousin, the pianist Alexander Siloti, taught him at the Moscow Conservatory. There, his studies were supervised by a musical ‘godfather’, Nikolay Zverev, with whom he also lodged. But Zverev wanted Rachmaninov to be a pianist and threw him out of the house when he persisted with composition. Rachmaninov got his revenge when his one-act opera Aleko (1892) won the highest possible marks in his final exam. This led to a publishing contract and a premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Meanwhile, Rachmaninov had written his Prelude in C sharp minor, whose popularity was to hound him in later life. He began his First Symphony in 1895, the disastrous premiere of which in 1897 led to a creative block of almost three years. Rachmaninov was no mean conductor himself and, when he found it almost impossible to compose, he launched what was virtually a third career – conducting opera. Though he recovered from the crisis in creative self-confidence with the help of Dr Nikolay Dahl, he always doubted the worth of his music, which he often revised with substantial cuts.

In 1906, shortly after the first signs of political unrest in Russia, Rachmaninov and his family left for Dresden, where he wrote his Second Symphony and First Piano Sonata. For his first tour of America as a pianist he composed his Third Piano Concerto (1909). His earnings enabled him to buy a car, and in the same year his uncle made over to him the country estate of Ivanovka. But Rachmaninov’s world was to be shattered by the Revolution of 1917, although the composer attempted to recreate it in the USA by buying a house there, giving it the same name as his Russian estate and filling it with Russian friends.

Considered one of the greatest pianists of his time, Rachmaninov was never poor. But his luxurious lifestyle depended on exhausting concert tours and took him away from composing. Arguably, his exile from Russia, as well as radical changes in the arts, made his type of epic Romanticism impossible to sustain. Yet he didn’t remain altogether aloof from contemporary musical developments, for his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934) does have, as well as tender passages, a lean and biting quality, characteristics also present in the Symphonic Dances of 1940.

Profile by Adrian Jack © BBC

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Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Piano Concerto No.2, Allegro Scherzando
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Piano Concerto No.2, Allegro Scherzando
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
10 Songs: Before my window
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10 Songs: Before my window
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Etudes Tableaux Op. 39 No. 5 in E flat minor
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Etudes Tableaux Op. 39 No. 5 in E flat minor
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Etudes Tableaux Op. 33 No. 3 in C minor
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Etudes Tableaux Op. 33 No. 3 in C minor
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra (Op.43)
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Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra (Op.43)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Variations on a theme of Corelli for piano (Op.42)
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Variations on a theme of Corelli for piano (Op.42)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Maestoso in C major
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Maestoso in C major
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Cherubic Hymn (Liturgy of St John Chrysostom)
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Cherubic Hymn (Liturgy of St John Chrysostom)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Suite No.2 (Op.17) for 2 pianos
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Suite No.2 (Op.17) for 2 pianos
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Vocalise (Op.34 No.14) arr. Arnold for viola and piano
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Vocalise (Op.34 No.14) arr. Arnold for viola and piano
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Prelude in C sharp minor [Bells]
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Prelude in C sharp minor [Bells]
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Suite for 2 pianos in G minor (Op.5) (Fantasie-Tableaux)
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Suite for 2 pianos in G minor (Op.5) (Fantasie-Tableaux)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
My cheeks, so white, so rosy (3 Russian Songs, Op.41'3)
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My cheeks, so white, so rosy (3 Russian Songs, Op.41'3)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Prelude in C# minor Op.3 no.2
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Prelude in C# minor Op.3 no.2
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.36
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Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.36
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
A passing breeze (Op.34/4)
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A passing breeze (Op.34/4)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Vocalise Op 31 No 14
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Vocalise Op 31 No 14
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Suite for 2 pianos no. 2 (Op.17), Romance
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Suite for 2 pianos no. 2 (Op.17), Romance
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Morceaux de salon for piano (Op.10), no.5; Humoresque in G major
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Morceaux de salon for piano (Op.10), no.5; Humoresque in G major
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Romance and Waltz
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Romance and Waltz
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Etude Tableau No. 1 in F minor
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Etude Tableau No. 1 in F minor
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Prelude No.5 in G minor - from [10] Preludes for piano (Op.23)
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Prelude No.5 in G minor - from [10] Preludes for piano (Op.23)
Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Concerto for piano and orchestra no. 2 (Op. 18) in C minor, Adagio Sostenuto
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Concerto for piano and orchestra no. 2 (Op. 18) in C minor, Adagio Sostenuto
Lucy Parham & Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op 43 Variation 18
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Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op 43 Variation 18
Dmitry Mayboroda & Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op 43 Variation 18
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Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op 43 Variation 18
Add music you love and enjoy it
Playlists featuring Sergey Vasilievich Rachmaninov
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates

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Biography

Rachmaninov was born into a family of Russian landowners in financial decline and his parents separated when he was still at school. Despite this, family connections were important: he married a cousin, and another cousin, the pianist Alexander Siloti, taught him at the Moscow Conservatory. There, his studies were supervised by a musical ‘godfather’, Nikolay Zverev, with whom he also lodged. But Zverev wanted Rachmaninov to be a pianist and threw him out of the house when he persisted with composition. Rachmaninov got his revenge when his one-act opera Aleko (1892) won the highest possible marks in his final exam. This led to a publishing contract and a premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Meanwhile, Rachmaninov had written his Prelude in C sharp minor, whose popularity was to hound him in later life. He began his First Symphony in 1895, the disastrous premiere of which in 1897 led to a creative block of almost three years. Rachmaninov was no mean conductor himself and, when he found it almost impossible to compose, he launched what was virtually a third career – conducting opera. Though he recovered from the crisis in creative self-confidence with the help of Dr Nikolay Dahl, he always doubted the worth of his music, which he often revised with substantial cuts.

In 1906, shortly after the first signs of political unrest in Russia, Rachmaninov and his family left for Dresden, where he wrote his Second Symphony and First Piano Sonata. For his first tour of America as a pianist he composed his Third Piano Concerto (1909). His earnings enabled him to buy a car, and in the same year his uncle made over to him the country estate of Ivanovka. But Rachmaninov’s world was to be shattered by the Revolution of 1917, although the composer attempted to recreate it in the USA by buying a house there, giving it the same name as his Russian estate and filling it with Russian friends.

Considered one of the greatest pianists of his time, Rachmaninov was never poor. But his luxurious lifestyle depended on exhausting concert tours and took him away from composing. Arguably, his exile from Russia, as well as radical changes in the arts, made his type of epic Romanticism impossible to sustain. Yet he didn’t remain altogether aloof from contemporary musical developments, for his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934) does have, as well as tender passages, a lean and biting quality, characteristics also present in the Symphonic Dances of 1940.

Profile by Adrian Jack © BBC

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