Main content

In America: Homesick Sabbatical

Rachmaninov, tired of his busy life as a pianist, decided to devote 1926 to composition. Donald Macleod looks at how it turned out.

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.

By 1926, Rachmaninov was exhausted by his schedule as a pianist, and frustrated that he’d not written more music. He planned a year off, to write his fourth piano concerto – but still struggled to make space for composition, lamenting the lack of “quiet” he found stateside, and looking back with poignancy to his former life in Russia.

Etudes Tableaux, Op 33, Nos 2 and 7
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

3 Russian Songs, Op 41
Russian State Symphony Orchestra
Valery Polyansky, conductor

Marche (Etudes Tableaux, orch. Respighi)
Minnesota Orchestra
Eiji Oue, conductor

25 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Etudes-Tableaux (Nos 2 and 7)

    Performer: Sergey Rachmaninov.
    • 8.111397.
    • Naxos.
    • 9.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    3 Russian Songs for chorus and orchestra (Nos 1-3)

    Choir: Russian State Symphony Capella. Orchestra: Russian State Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Valery Kuzmich Polyansky.
    • CHANDOS : CHAN-9665.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 5.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Piano Concerto No 4 in G minor

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: André Previn.
    • DECCA : 444-839 2.
    • Decca.
    • 4.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Etudes-Tableaux, orch. Respighi (No 5)

    Orchestra: Minnesota Orchestra. Conductor: Eije Oue.
    • RR96.
    • Reference Recordings.
    • 9.

Broadcasts

  • Wed 26 Sep 2018 12:00
  • Wednesday 12:00

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.