Sergei Rachmaninoff

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    Iván Fischer on Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2

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    Understanding the Music: Rachmaninoff - Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27


Born in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia, in 1873, Sergei Rachmaninoff was a brilliant pianist, composer and conductor. At age nine he entered the College of Music in St. Petersburg. In 1885 he was sent to the Moscow Conservatory and in 1892, at the age of nineteen, he graduated with high honors, winning a gold medal for his one-act opera Aleko.

Rachmaninoff's fame and popularity, both as a composer and concert pianist, were launched by his Prelude in C Sharp Minor (1892). His work slowly continued to gain recognition and praise until 1897, when his Symphony No. 1 in D Minor was poorly performed at its premier and the critics condemned it. He suffered a complete loss of self-confidence which left him unable to compose for the next three years.

By 1901, however, he completed his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. In 1906, he left Russia to live in Dresden, Germany. There he wrote three of his major scores: the Symphony No. 2 in E Minor (1907), the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead (1909), and the Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor (1909), composed especially for his first concert tour of the United States, in 1909.

In 1917 he made his permanent home in the United States, giving concerts, and producing a number of works, including the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra (1934), and his Symphony No. 3 in A Minor (1936). He died in 1943, in Beverly Hills, California.
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