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In America: A Reluctant Visitor

Rachmaninov was equivocal about his first tour of the States in 1909. Donald Macleod finds out why the composer had mixed feelings about the country he would come to call home.

Reluctant even to visit at first, and once there always more than a little homesick, this proudly Russian composer in fact lived in the United States of America for 25 years, from the end of the First World War until his death in 1943. His life there was principally that of a virtuoso performer, not a composer, and Rachmaninov gave recitals for presidents, recorded discs for Thomas Edison, and felt obliged to rattle off his “hated” Prelude in C sharp minor for concert audiences wherever he went.

Today, Donald Macleod examines the composer’s first concert tour of the states, in 1909, when Rachmaninov was finally convinced to go there by the prospect of purchasing a new automobile with the considerable appearance fees the tour offered. But he was equivocal: despite the tour’s success, American life didn’t particularly appeal, and he turned down offers of more work, returning to Moscow with no intention to go back. Within just a few years, political events would change his mind again.

Prelude in C sharp minor
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Piano concerto in D minor, 1st movement
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
New York Philharmonic
Eugene Ormandy, conductor

The Isle of the Dead, Op 29
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner

A Dream (6 Songs, Op 38 No 5)
Renee Fleming, soprano
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

The Star-Spangled Banner for piano
Idil Biret, piano

Produced by Dominic Jewel for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Prelude in C sharp minor

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • DECCA : 443-841 2.
    • DECCA.
    • 1.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Piano Concerto No 3 in D Minor, 1st mvt

    Performer: Vladimir Horowitz. Orchestra: New York Philharmonic. Conductor: Eugene Ormandy.
    • 82876-59411-2.
    • RCA RED SEAL.
    • 1.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    The Isle of the Dead, Op 29

    Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, C.B. Fritz Reiner. Conductor: Fritz Reiner.
    • RCA Victor G010000245194F.
    • RCA VICTOR.
    • 5.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    A Dream (6 Songs, Op 38)

    Performer: Jean‐Yves Thibaudet. Singer: Renée Fleming.
    • 4676972.
    • Decca.
    • 24.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    The Star-Spangled Banner for piano

    Performer: İdil Biret.
    • 8.550978.
    • Naxos.
    • 17.

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