Sergei Rachmaninoff is considered one of the greatest Romantic Russian composers and pianists in the world. Born April 1st, 1873, (Rachmaninoff’s 139th birthday was yesterday) and died in 1943, he represents Russian music to a degree that only a small number of composers have the honor of doing. While he is considered a modern classical composer, one of the Romantic era, the average person is often likely to think of his name immediately when naming virtually any classical composer.
Rachmaninoff studied as a young man at the Moscow Imperial Conservatory. His name is always attached to the institution (important to note, as one considers the role of classical music and conservatories in Russian culture). While he started as a student studying piano, Rachmaninoff quickly became involved in composing, where he truly made his name a fixture in Russian and Western society.
As for Rachmaninoff’s music itself, it is truly iconic. He remains one of the staple Russian composers who strongly incorporated folk music into his works. His music is very rich, lush, and bold. The deep tones Rachmaninoff seems so fond of pulls at one’s chest. It seems firmer, not necessarily light or airy or angelic. It is human. His music gives a strong emotional impact, yet it is somehow, strangely, easy to listen to and understand. Rachmaninoff’s pieces connect the listener to the music. Harmonically, melodiously, his music makes sense to us as listeners.
Rachmaninoff plays his famously iconic Prelude in C Sharp Minor. Truly amazing, heart-wrenchingly good music!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a_e0Vqxz08
Rachmaninoff himself plays his Piano Concerto No. 2 with accompanying orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8l37utZxMQ
Rachmaninoff plays the piano accompaniment to his Piano Concerto No. 3 with accompanying orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oA0kXDMKiLg
Next up, I will discuss fellow Russian romantic/contemporary composer Aleksander Scriabin, and explore the famous debate between the two composers: Who is better?