Author Topic: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)  (Read 60162 times)

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Offline Chaszz

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Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« on: December 10, 2009, 05:35:52 PM »
Excuse me, but this composer seems to have a total of two or three self-pitying ideas which he recycles relentlessly and endlessly. Why is this papmeister played on classical music stations regularly, even respectable ones? Am I missing something?
Shall I armour myself against flames here?
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 12:07:19 AM by Que »
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Offline Chaszz

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2009, 05:42:06 PM »
Excuse me, but this composer seems to have a total of two or three self-pitying ideas which he recycles relentlessly and endlessly. Why is this papmeister played on classical music stations regularly, even respectable ones? Am I missing something?
Shall I armour myself against flames here?

P.S. And recently I read a self-pitying quote from his older years in which he confessed he (tragically) couldn't compose anymore. Well, duh....
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Offline Brian

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2009, 06:46:52 PM »
If what you're hearing over and over is the Piano Concerto No 2 and Prelude in C sharp minor, then no wonder you've got that opinion. But the truth is that Rachmaninov was a talented composer of a quite varied body of musical output. A lot of folks find death as a common thread in his music - and it certainly is there, in the Paganini Rhapsody, in the Isle of the Dead, maybe in a couple preludes. A lot of folks find needless virtuosity in his music - well, he earned his pay as a virtuoso concert pianist and, in the grand old tradition of Chopin and Liszt (whose concertos have far less substance, in my opinion), he wrote music to play in concert.

That said, I think there is a general tendency to fixate on Rachmaninov's very obvious emotionality and the sorrows of his personal life and use them to create a narrative that's dismissive of him as a serious, intelligent composer. You don't have to buy that narrative. I don't. I think his 24 preludes for solo piano are varied and interesting, an intelligent cycle of piano works that stubbornly refuses to indulge in what you call self-pity. Branch out beyond the famous stuff - or even look at the famous stuff from a new perspective, like the stark minimalist intensity of the Isle of the Dead or contrapuntal talents on display in the Symphony No 2.

Rachmaninov is not necessarily one of my very favorite composers (those are Beethoven, Dvorak, Shostakovich, maybe Chopin) but he is one I admire and greatly enjoy. He is unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and that heart happened to be a big one. But I can't say I detect "two or three self-pitying ideas" wending their ways through his work as a common thread or a recyclement. Maybe the only common thread I see is that a lot of his finales (Piano Concertos 2 and 3, Symphony 2) tend to end with the subsidiary theme sweeping through the string section in slow-motion, followed by one last cascade of quick little notes.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2009, 06:49:27 PM by Brian »

Offline Chaszz

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2009, 06:51:04 PM »
If what you're hearing over and over is the Piano Concerto No 2 and Prelude in C sharp minor, then no wonder you've got that opinion. But the truth is that Rachmaninov was a talented composer of a quite varied body of musical output. A lot of folks find death as a common thread in his music - and it certainly is there, in the Paganini Rhapsody, in the Isle of the Dead, maybe in a couple preludes. A lot of folks find needless virtuosity in his music - well, he earned his pay as a virtuoso concert pianist and, in the grand old tradition of Chopin and Liszt (whose concertos have far less substance, in my opinion), he wrote music to play in concert.

That said, I think there is a general tendency to fixate on Rachmaninov's very obvious emotionality and the sorrows of his personal life and use them to create a narrative that's dismissive of him as a serious, intelligent composer. You don't have to buy that narrative. I don't. I think his 24 preludes for solo piano are as varied and as interesting a cycle of piano works as any composed since the time Chopin. Branch out beyond the famous stuff - or even look at the famous stuff from a new perspective, like the stark minimalist intensity of the Isle of the Dead or contrapuntal talents on display in the Symphony No 2.

Rachmaninov is not necessarily one of my very favorite composers (those are Beethoven, Dvorak, Shostakovich, maybe Chopin) but he is one I admire and greatly enjoy. He is unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and that heart happened to be a big one. But I can't say I detect "two or three self-pitying ideas" wending their ways through his work as a common thread or a recyclement. Maybe the only common thread I see is that a lot of his finales (Piano Concertos 2 and 3, Symphony 2) tend to end with the subsidiary theme sweeping through the string section in slow-motion, followed by one last cascade of quick little notes.

I'm sorry, but every work I've heard by him, including some you mention, seem to me to recycle the same limited batch of a few melodic and harmonic ideas.
See my sculptures and paintings at http://charleszigmund.com and http://charleszigmund.com/sculpture

Offline Novi

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2009, 07:01:22 PM »
Try his All-Night Vigil, Chaszz.
Durch alle Töne tönet
Im bunten Erdentraum
Ein leiser Ton gezogen
Für den der heimlich lauschet.

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2009, 07:04:47 PM »
I'm sorry, but every work I've heard by him, including some you mention, seem to me to recycle the same limited batch of a few melodic and harmonic ideas.
Well, if you can say that about The Isle of the Dead, then I have nothing to say to you about this subject, except that I disagree strongly. :-X
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline schweitzeralan

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2009, 05:33:34 AM »
Try his All-Night Vigil, Chaszz.

If I'm not mistraken Racmaninof did not compose all that much after he left revolutionary Russia in 1917.  He did compose a few works here in the US, but I think he survived financially by virtue of his many wonderful performances.  I believe he even may have conducted. 

Offline Herman

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2009, 05:53:54 AM »
Excuse me, but this composer seems to have a total of two or three self-pitying ideas which he recycles relentlessly and endlessly. Why is this papmeister played on classical music stations regularly, even respectable ones? Am I missing something?
Shall I armour myself against flames here?

Yeah, that's Rachmoninoff.

You should, however, try and listen to Rachmaninoff.

That's an entirely different matter.

PS it's a little odd to specially create a thread to dismiss a major composer.

Online Sergeant Rock

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2009, 06:37:29 AM »
I'm sorry, but every work I've heard by him, including some you mention, seem to me to recycle the same limited batch of a few melodic and harmonic ideas.

Like all the great composers he has an instantly recognizable style and language. That's not to say, though, that he repeats the same few melodic and harmonic ideas.

Sarge
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Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
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Offline Carolus

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2009, 07:23:05 AM »
His second piano trio and the cello sonata are IMO two of the most beautiful romantic works of the 20th.century :)

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2009, 08:11:41 AM »
Rakhmaninov is brilliant. Period.

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2009, 08:25:59 AM »
If I'm not mistraken Racmaninof did not compose all that much after he left revolutionary Russia in 1917.  He did compose a few works here in the US, but I think he survived financially by virtue of his many wonderful performances.  I believe he even may have conducted.
It's true that his output declined in quantity; however, the works he did compose during that time are major: the 4th piano concerto, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Third Symphony, and the Symphonic Dances. 8)
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline schweitzeralan

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2009, 09:18:32 AM »
It's true that his output declined in quantity; however, the works he did compose during that time are major: the 4th piano concerto, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Third Symphony, and the Symphonic Dances. 8)

All significant works.

Offline Carolus

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2009, 09:31:45 AM »
And what about his early two short string quartets from the time he was a student on the Conservatory? Only 2 movements each, but very well done.

Offline offbeat

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2009, 03:58:27 PM »
I love Rachmaninov because of the sense of nostalgia in nearly every work - in particular his late works when in America shows regret in the music which is heart rending - works like the third symphony and Symphonic Dances have real feeling imo - the tone poem Isle of the Dead is very romantic but probably my favourite is his early Vespers - great music to meditate to,,,,

Offline DavidRoss

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2009, 04:08:56 PM »
Just listened to the Rach 2 for the first time in a couple of months, at least.  Grimaud/Abbado/Lucerne Festival Orchestra.  The zenith of late Romanticism, for this listener.  Of course, if I heard it every day I would quickly tire of it.  The same principle applies to crème brûlée, does it not?
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Offline Benji

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2009, 05:11:32 PM »
I'm glad to see so much support in favour of the composer. I was thinking the other day that I hadn't seen anyone post that they were listening to Rach in as long as I could remember.

I enjoy most of what i've heard, and love a great deal of it. I couldn't do without The Bells inparticular; it just stirs something up inside me and the feeling is wonderful. But then i'm emotional and, at times, morbid, and perhaps that's why his music resonates with me.

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2009, 07:22:06 PM »
To dissipate the stereotype that Rachmaninoff is always gloomy, listen to the Symphonic Dances (Janson's has a wonderful recording with a proper Russian orchestra).  Really vibrant, inventive music.

And, of course, the idea that the originator of this thread knows anything about Rachmaninoff is belied by the fact that he or she can't even spell Rach's name!   ::)

Offline Valentino

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2009, 12:04:02 AM »
Rakhmaninov is brilliant. Period.

My sentiments exactly.
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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2009, 12:51:13 AM »
Translated musically, maybe you think he had a fixation on the (gloomy) descending minor 2nd, (that does change to a major 2nd in the finale of the 2nd concerto A to G, or the ascending, triumphant E to F# in the finale of the 3rd PC). Or the ta ta-ta ta tattoo at the end of some of his music.

OK, Beethoven liked triads, so what? Other composers had other distinguishing marks of style (just like anyone who writes prose (I have a habit of parentheses)).

But there is such a variety in his music, and may I mention (although I know them far from well) his beautiful song writing?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSsuuVvhaHI

Guryakova/Orbelian recording of "Floods of Spring" or "Spring Waters" captures the whoosh and sparkle of the melting ice that I didn't find in about 20 or so youtube clips I just now checked. But that in itself is a fantastic work, one of about 100 other songs by Rachmaninoff.

And incidentally, Rachmaninoff's piano recording of the Schumann "Carnaval" is a feat in technique and expression.

ZB
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 12:55:38 AM by zamyrabyrd »
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