Sergey Rachmaninov (Composer)|
After study at the St. Petersburg and Moscow Conservatories, Sergey
Rachmaninov embarked on a career in Russia as a composer, pianist and conductor.
Exile from his own country after the Communist Revolution of 1917 forced an
increased concentration on performance, as one of the most distinguished
pianists of the day, activity that enabled him to support his family but left
less time for his work as a composer. For practical reasons he eventually based
himself in the United States, while keeping a villa in Switzerland. He died in
Beverly Hills in 1943.
The second of Rachmaninov's four piano concertos holds an unchallenged
position among romantic works in this form, its popularity closely rivalled by
the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, for piano and orchestra. While the
Symphonic Dances of 1940 enjoy some popularity, as well as the symphonic poem
The Rock and the dark-hued Isle of the Dead, with its recurrent motif from the
Latin Requiem Mass, the second of his three numbered symphonies is still more
Rachmaninov's Prelude in C sharp minor won early popularity that largely
outweighed its merits. Other piano works include the Etudes-tableaux of 1911 and
1916-17, two sonatas, sets of Preludes and Moments musicaux, transcriptions,
including the two Kreisler pieces Liebesleid and Liebesfreud, and the impressive
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, his last original composition for solo piano,
composed in 1931 and based on the popular Baroque dance theme of La Follia, also
used by Corelli in a violin sonata.