Sergei Rachmaninoff – Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff – Wikipedia

en.m.wikipedia.org

Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff[a][b](1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russiancomposer, virtuoso pianist and conductor of the late Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular in the Romantic repertoire.
Born into a musical family, Rachmaninoff took up the piano at age four. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, having already composed several piano and orchestral pieces. In 1897, following the negative critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. For the next sixteen years, Rachmaninoff conducted at the Bolshoi Theatre, relocated to Dresden, Germany, and toured the United States for the first time.
Following the Russian Revolution, Rachmaninoff and his family left Russia; in 1918, they settled in the United States, first in New York City. With his main source of income coming from piano and conducting performances, demanding tour schedules led to a reduction in his time for composition; between 1918 and 1943, he completed just six works, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. By 1942, his failing health led to his relocation to Beverly Hills, California. One month before his death from advanced melanoma, Rachmaninoff was granted American citizenship.
In Rachmaninoff’s work, early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and rich orchestral colors.[3] Rachmaninoff often featured the piano in his compositions, and he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument through his own skills as a pianist.

Contents

Biography

Ancestry and early years, 1873–1885

Moscow Conservatory and first compositions, 1885–1894

Symphony No. 1, depression, and conducting debut, 1894–1900

Recovery, emergence, and conducting, 1900–1906

Move to Dresden and first US tour, 1906–1917

Leaving Russia, immigration to the US, and concert pianist, 1917–1925

Touring, final compositions, and Villa Senar, 1926–1942

Illness, move to California, and death, 1942–1943

Works

Compositional style

Fluctuating reputation

Pianism

Technique

Tone

Memory

Interpretations

Speculations about Marfan syndrome and acromegaly

Recordings

Phonograph

Piano rolls

Media

As performer

As composer

Popular culture

Films about Rachmaninoff

Use of Rachmaninoff’s music in films

See also

Notes

References

Bibliography

Free scores

BiographyEdit

Ancestry and early years, 1873–1885Edit

Sergei was born into a family of the Russian aristocracy in the Russian Empire. In their first known genealogy, compiled in the 1680s by Perfiliy Rakhmaninov, the family derives its own origin from the Moldovan rulers Dragoshi, who ruled Moldavia and Wallachia from 1350 to 1552[4]descending from Vasile, nicknamed Rachmaninov (“Rachmanin” in Old Russian, meaning lazy),[5][6] a son of the Moldavian prince Stephen the Great.[7][8] Rachmaninoff’s family had strong musical and military leanings. His paternal grandfather, Arkady Alexandrovich, was a musician who had taken lessons from Irish composer John Field.[9] His father, Vasily Arkadyevich Rachmaninoff (1841–1916), was an army officer and amateur pianist who married Lyubov Petrovna Butakova (1853–1929), the daughter of a wealthy army general who gave her five estates as part of her dowry. The couple had three sons and three daughters, Rachmaninoff being their fourth child.[10]
Rachmaninoff was born in the Semyonovo estate, Zhglovskoy parish, Starorussky County, Novgorod Governorate. It is unclear which of two family estates he was born on: Oneg near Veliky Novgorod, or Semyonovo near Staraya Russa. His birth was registered in a church in the latter,[11]but he was raised in Oneg until age nine and cited it as his birthplace in his adult life.[12][13] He began piano and music lessons organised by his mother at age four.[12] She noticed his ability to reproduce passages from memory without a wrong note. Upon hearing news of the boy’s gift, Arkady suggested she hire Anna Ornatskaya, a teacher and recent graduate of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, to live with the family and begin formal teaching. Rachmaninoff dedicated his piano composition “Spring Waters” from 12 Romances, Op. 14 to Ornatskaya.[14]
Rachmaninoff’s father had to auction off the Oneg estate in 1882 due to his financial incompetence; the family’s five estates were now reduced to one. Rachmaninoff remained critical of his father in later life, describing him as “a wastrel, a compulsive gambler, a pathological liar, and a skirt chaser”.[15][16] The family moved to a small flat in Saint Petersburg.[17] In 1883, Ornatskaya arranged for Rachmaninoff, now 10, to study music at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Later that year his sister Sofia died of diphtheria and his father left the family for Moscow.[10] His maternal grandmother stepped in to help raise the children with particular focus on their spiritual life, regularly taking Rachmaninoff to Russian Orthodox Church services where he first experienced liturgical chants and church bells, two features he would incorporate in his future compositions.[17]
In 1885, Rachmaninoff suffered further loss when his sister Yelena died at age eighteen of pernicious anemia. She was an important musical influence to Rachmaninoff who had introduced him to the works of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. As a respite, his grandmother took him to a farm retreat by the Volkhov Riverwhere Rachmaninoff developed a love for rowing.[10] At the Conservatory, however, he had adopted a relaxed attitude and failed his general education classes, and purposely altered his report cards in what composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakovcalled a period of “purely Russian self-delusion and laziness”.[18]Rachmaninoff performed at events held at the Moscow Conservatory during this time, including those attended by the Grand Duke Konstantin and other notable figures, but upon failing his spring exams Ornatskaya notified his mother that his admission to further education might be revoked.[10] His mother then consulted with Alexander Siloti, her nephew and an accomplished pianist and student of Franz Liszt, who recommended he be transferred to the Moscow Conservatory and receive lessons from his former teacher, the more strict Nikolai Zverev,[19][20] which lasted until 1888.[21]

Moscow Conservatory and first compositions, 1885–1894Edit

In the autumn of 1885, Rachmaninoff moved in with Zverev and stayed for almost four years, during which he befriended fellow pupil Alexander Scriabin.[22] After two years of tuition, the fifteen year old Rachmaninoff was awarded a Rubinstein scholarship,[23]and graduated from the lower division of the Conservatory to become a pupil of Siloti in advanced piano, Sergei Taneyev in counterpoint, and Anton Arensky in free composition.[24] In 1889, a rift formed between Rachmaninoff and Zverev, now his adviser, after Zverev turned down the composer’s request for assistance in renting a piano and greater privacy to compose. Zverev, who believed composition was a waste for talented pianists, refused to speak to Rachmaninoff for some time and organised for him to live with his uncle and aunt Satin and their family in Moscow.[25] Rachmaninoff then found his first romance in Vera, the youngest daughter of the neighbouring Skalon family, but her mother objected and forbade Rachmaninoff to write to her, leaving him to correspond with her older sister Natalia.[26] It is from these letters that many of Rachmaninoff’s earliest compositions can be traced.[19]
Rachmaninoff spent his summer break in 1890 with the Satins at Ivanovka, their private country estate near Tambov, to which the composer would return many times until 1917.[27] The peaceful and bucolic surroundings became a source of inspiration for the composer who completed many compositions while at the estate, including his Op. 1, the Piano Concerto , which he dedicated to Siloti, in July 1891.[28] Also that year, Rachmaninoff completed the one-movement Youth Symphony and the symphonic poem Prince Rostislav.[10] Siloti left the Moscow Conservatory after the academic year ended in 1891 and Rachmaninoff asked to take his final piano exams a year early to avoid being assigned a different teacher. Despite little faith from Siloti and Conservatory director Vasily Safonov as he had just three weeks’ preparation, Rachmaninoff received assistance from a recent graduate who was familiar with the tests, and passed each one with honours in July 1891. Three days later, he passed his annual theory and composition exams.[29] Progress was unexpectedly halted in the latter half of 1891 when he contracted a severe case of malaria during his summer break at Ivankova.[30][31]
During his final year at the Conservatory, Rachmaninoff performed his first independent concert, where he premiered his Trio élégiaque in February 1892, followed by a performance of the first movement of his Piano Concerto No. 1 a month later.[32] His request to take his final theory and composition exams a year early was also granted, for which he wrote Aleko, a one-act opera based on the narrative poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin, in seventeen days.[33][28][34] It premiered in May 1892 at the Bolshoi Theatrewhich Tchaikovsky attended and praised Rachmaninoff for his work.[35]Rachmaninoff believed it was “sure to fail”, but the production was so successful the theatre agreed to produce it starring singer Feodor Chaliapin who would become a lifelong friend.[36][19] Aleko earned Rachmaninoff the highest mark at the Conservatory and a Great Gold Medal, a distinction only previously awarded to Taneyev and Arseny Koreshchenko.[19] Zverev, a member of the exam committee, gave the composer his gold watch, thus ending years of estrangement.[37] On 29 May 1892, the Conservatory issued Rachmaninoff with a diploma which allowed him to officially style himself as a “Free Artist”.[10]
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Upon graduating, Rachmaninoff continued to compose and signed a 500-rouble publishing contract with Gutheil, under which Aleko, Two Pieces (Op. 2) and Six Songs (Op. 4) were among the first published.[37]The composer had previously earned 15 roubles a month in giving piano lessons.[38] He spent the summer of 1892 on the estate of Ivan Konavalov, a rich landowner in the Kostroma Oblast, and moved back with the Satins in the Arbat District.[10] Delays in getting paid by Gutheil saw Rachmaninoff seeking other sources of income which led to an engagement at the Moscow Electrical Exhibition in September 1892, his public debut as a pianist, where he premiered his landmark Prelude in C-sharp minor from his five-part piano composition piece Morceaux de fantaisie (Op. 3). He was paid 50 roubles for his appearance.[39][37][40] It was well received and became one of his most enduring pieces.[41][42] In 1893, he completed his tone poem The Rock, dedicated to Rimsky-Korsakov.
In 1893, Rachmaninoff spent a productive summer with friends at an estate in Kharkiv Oblast where he composed several pieces, including Fantaisie-Tableaux (aka Suite No. 1, Op. 5) and Morceaux de salon (Op. 10).[43][44] In September, he published Six Songs (Op. 8), a group of songs set to translations by Aleksey Pleshcheyevof Ukrainian and German poems.[45]Rachmaninoff returned to Moscow, where Tchaikovsky agreed to conduct The Rock for an upcoming European tour. During his subsequent trip to Kievto conduct performances of Aleko, he learned of Tchaikovsky’s death from cholera.[46] The news left Rachmaninoff stunned; later that day, he started work on his Trio élégiaquefor piano, violin and cello as a tribute, which he completed within a month.[47][48] The music’s aura of gloom reveals the depth and sincerity of Rachmaninoff’s grief for his idol.[49]The piece debuted at the first concert devoted to Rachmaninoff’s compositions on 31 January 1894.[48]

Symphony No. 1, depression, and conducting debut, 1894–1900Edit

Rachmaninoff entered a decline following Tchaikovsky’s death. He lacked the inspiration to compose, and the management of the Grand Theatre had lost interest in showcasing Alekoand dropped it from the program.[50]To earn more money, Rachmaninoff returned to giving piano lessons,[51]and in late 1895 agreed to a three-month tour across Russia with a program shared by Italian violinist Teresina Tua. The tour was not enjoyable for the composer and he quit before it ended, thus sacrificing his performance fees. In a more desperate plea for money, Rachmaninoff pawned his gold watch given to him by Zverev.[52] In September 1895, before the tour started, Rachmaninoff completed his Symphony No. 1 (Op. 13), a work conceived in January and based on chants he had heard in Russian Orthodox church services.[52]Rachmaninoff had worked so hard on it that he could not return to composition until he heard the piece performed.[53] This lasted until October 1896, when “a rather large sum of money” that was not his was stolen from Rachmaninoff during a train journey and he had to work to recoup the losses. Among the pieces composed were Six Choruses (Op. 15) and Six moments musicaux (Op. 16), his final completed composition for several months.[54]
Rachmaninoff’s fortunes took a turn following the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 on 28 March 1897 in one of a long-running series of Russian Symphony Concerts devoted to Russian music. The piece was brutally panned by critic and nationalist composer César Cui, who likened it to a depiction of the ten plagues of Egypt, suggesting it would be admired by the “inmates” of a music conservatory in Hell.[55] The deficiencies of the performance, conducted by Alexander Glazunov, were not commented on by other critics,[49] but according to a memoir from Alexander Ossovsky, a close friend of Rachmaninoff,[56][57]Glazunov made poor use of rehearsal time, and the concert’s program itself, which contained two other premières, was also a factor. Other witnesses suggested that Glazunov, an alcoholic, may have been drunk, although this was never intimated by Rachmaninoff.[58][59] Following the reaction to his first symphony, Rachmaninoff wrote in May 1897 that “I’m not at all affected” by its lack of success or critical reaction, but felt “deeply distressed and heavily depressed by the fact that my Symphony … did not please me at all after its first rehearsal.” He thought its performance was poor, particularly Glazunov’s contribution.[60] The piece was not performed for the rest of Rachmaninoff’s life, but he revised it into a four-hand piano arrangement in 1898.
Rachmaninoff fell into a depression that lasted for three years, during which he had writer’s block and composed almost nothing. He described this time as “Like the man who had suffered a stroke and for a long time had lost the use of his head and hands”.[61] He made a living by giving piano lessons.[62] A stroke of good fortune came from Savva Mamontov, a Russian industrialist and founder of the Moscow Private Russian Opera Company, who offered Rachmaninoff the post of assistant conductor for the 1897–98 season. The cash-strapped composer accepted, conducting Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns as his first opera on 12 October 1897.[63] By the end of February 1899, Rachmaninoff attempted composition and completed two short piano pieces, Morceau de Fantaisie and Fughetta in F major. Two months later, he travelled to London for the first time to perform and conduct, earning positive reviews.[64]
During his time conducting in Moscow, Rachmaninoff was engaged to Natalia Satina. However, the Russian Orthodox church and Satina’s parents opposed their announcement, thwarting their plans for marriage. Rachmaninoff’s depression worsened in late 1899 following an unproductive summer; he composed one song, “Fate”, which later became one of his Twelve Songs (Op. 21), and left compositions for a proposed return visit to London unfulfilled.[65] In an attempt to revive his desire to compose, his aunt arranged for the writer Leo Tolstoy, whom Rachmaninoff greatly admired, to have the composer visit his home and receive words of encouragement. The visit was unsuccessful, doing nothing to help him compose with the fluency he had before.[66][67]

Recovery, emergence, and conducting, 1900–1906Edit

By 1900, Rachmaninoff had become so self-critical that, despite numerous attempts, composing had become near impossible. His aunt then suggested professional help, having received successful treatment from a family friend, physician and amateur musician Nikolai Dahl, to which Rachmaninoff agreed without resistance.[68] Between January and April 1900, Rachmaninoff underwent hypnotherapy and psychotherapy sessions with Dahl on a daily basis, specifically structured to improve his sleep patterns, mood, and appetite and reignite his desire to compose. That summer, Rachmaninoff felt that “new musical ideas began to stir” and successfully resumed composition.[69]His first fully completed work, the Piano Concerto , was finished in April 1901; it is dedicated to Dahl. After the first and last movement premiered in December 1900 with Rachmaninoff as the soloist, the entire piece was first performed in 1901 and was enthusiastically received.[70] The piece earned the composer a Glinka Award, the first of five awarded to him throughout his life, and a 500-rouble prize in 1904.[71]
Amid his professional career success, Rachmaninoff married Natalia Satina on 12 May 1902 after a three-year engagement.[72] Because they were first cousins, the marriage was forbidden under a Canon law imposed by the Russian Orthodox Church; in addition, Rachmaninoff was not a regular church attendee and avoided confession, two things a priest would have had to confirm that he did in signing a marriage certificate.[73] To circumvent the church’s opposition, the couple used their military background and organised a small ceremony in a chapel in a Moscow suburb army barracks with Siloti and the cellist Anatoliy Brandukov as best men.[74] They received the smaller of two houses at the Ivanovka estate as a present and went on a three-month honeymoon across Europe.[72] Upon their return, they settled in Moscow, where they had two daughters, Irina Sergeievna Rachmaninova (1903–1969) and Tatiana Sergeievna Rachmaninova (1907–1961).[75][76][77]Rachmaninoff resumed work as a music teacher at St. Catherine’s Women’s College and the Elizabeth Institute.[78] By February 1903 he had completed his largest piano composition of his career at the time, the Variations on a Theme of Chopin(Op. 22).[78] Development on other pieces was disrupted after Natalia, Irina, and he were struck with illness during their summer break at Ivanovka.[79]
In 1904, in a career change, Rachmaninoff agreed to become the conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre for two seasons. He earned a mixed reputation during his time at the post, enforcing strict discipline and demanding high standards of performance.[80] Influenced by Richard Wagner, he pioneered the modern arrangement of the orchestra players in the pit and the modern custom of standing while conducting. He also worked with each soloist on their part, even accompanying them on the piano.[81] The theatre staged the premiere of his operas The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini.[82]
In the course of his second season as conductor, Rachmaninoff lost interest in his post. The social and political unrest surrounding the 1905 Revolution was beginning to affect the performers and theatre staff, who staged protests and demands for improved wages and conditions. Rachmaninoff remained largely uninterested in the politics surrounding him and the revolutionary spirit had made working conditions increasingly difficult.[83] In February 1906, after conducting 50 performances in the first season and 39 in the second, Rachmaninoff handed in his resignation.[84] He then took his family on an extended tour around Italy with the hope of completing new works, but illness struck his wife and daughter, and they returned to Ivanovka.[85] Money soon became an issue following Rachmaninoff’s resignation from his posts at St. Catherine’s and Elizabeth schools, leaving him only the option of composing.[86]

Move to Dresden and first US tour, 1906–1917Edit

Increasingly unhappy with the political turmoil in Russia and in need of seclusion from his lively social life to be able to compose, Rachmaninoff with his family left Moscow for Dresden, Germany, in November 1906.[87] The city had become a favourite of both Rachmaninoff and Natalia, presenting them with a more vibrant musical atmosphere and favourable opportunities. The family stayed in Dresden until 1909, only returning to Russia for their summer breaks at Ivanovka.[88] During a visit to Leipzig, he entered an art gallery which housed The Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin. The painting served as the inspiration for Rachmaninoff’s orchestral work of the same name, Op. 29.[89] Despite occasional periods of depression, apathy, and little faith in any of his work,[90] Rachmaninoff started on his Symphony No. 2 (Op. 27) in 1906, twelve years after the disastrous premiere of his first.[91] While writing it, Rachmaninoff and the family returned to Russia, but the composer detoured to Paris to take part in Sergei Diaghilev’s season of Russian concerts in May 1907. His performance as the soloist in his Piano Concerto No. 2 with an encore of his Prelude in C-sharp minor was a triumphant success.[92] Rachmaninoff regained his sense of self-worth following the enthusiastic reaction to the premiere of his Symphony No. 2 in early 1908, which earned him his second Glinka Award and 1,000 roubles.[93]
While in Dresden, Rachmaninoff agreed to perform and conduct in the United States as part of the 1909–10 concert season with conductor Max Fiedler and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[94] He spent time during breaks at Ivanovka finishing a new piece specially for the visit, his Piano Concerto No. 3 (Op. 30), which he dedicated to Josef Hofmann.[95] The tour saw the composer make 26 performances, 19 as pianist and 7 as conductor, which marked his first recitals without another performer in the program. His first appearance was at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts for a recital on 4 November 1909. The second performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 by the New York Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Gustav Mahler in New York City with the composer as soloist, an experience he personally treasured.[96][97] Though the tour increased the composer’s popularity in America, he declined subsequent offers, including that of conductor of the Boston Symphony, due to the length of time away from Russia and his family.[98][99]
Upon his return home in February 1910, Rachmaninoff became vice president of the Imperial Russian Musical Society, whose president was a member of the royal family.[100]Later in 1910, Rachmaninoff completed his choral work Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Op. 31), but it was banned from performance as it did not follow the format of a typical liturgical church service.[101] For two seasons between 1911 and 1913, Rachmaninoff was appointed permanent conductor of the Philharmonic Society of Moscow; he helped raise its profile and increase audience numbers and receipts.[102] In 1912, Rachmaninoff left the IRMS when he learned that a musician in an administrative post was dismissed for being Jewish.[103]
Soon after his resignation, an exhausted Rachmaninoff sought time for composition and took his family on holiday to Switzerland. They left after one month for Rome for a visit that became a particularly tranquil and influential period for the composer, who lived alone in a small apartment on Piazza di Spagna while his family stayed at a boardinghouse.[104][105]While there he received an anonymous letter that contained a Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Bells by Konstantin Balmont, which affected him greatly, and he began work on his choral symphony of the same title, Op. 35, based on it.[106]This period of composition ended abruptly when Rachmaninoff’s daughters contracted serious cases of typhoid and were treated in Berlin due to their father’s greater trust in German doctors. After six weeks, the Rachmaninoffs returned to their Moscow flat.[107] The composer conducted The Bells at its premiere in Saint Petersburg in late 1913.[108]
In January 1914, Rachmaninoff began a concert tour of England which was enthusiastically received.[108] He was too afraid to travel alone following the death of Raoul Pugno of an unexpected heart attack in his hotel room which left the composer wary of a similar fate.[107] Following the outbreak of war later that year, his position of Inspector of Music at Nobility High School for Girls put him in the group of government servants which prevented him from joining the army, yet the composer made regular charitable donations for the war effort.[109] In 1915, Rachmaninoff completed his second major choral work, All-Night Vigil (Op. 37), after he attended a performance of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and felt disappointed with it. After spending two weeks writing the All-Night Vigil, he passed the score to Sergei Taneyev for proofreading and correcting errors in its polyphony, but it was returned unaltered. It was received so warmly at its Moscow premiere in aid of war relief that four subsequent performances were quickly scheduled.[110]
Scriabin’s death in April 1915 was a tragedy for Rachmaninoff, who went on a piano recital tour devoted to his friend’s compositions to raise funds for Scriabin’s financially-stricken widow.[111] It marked his first public performances of works other than his own.[112] During a vacation in Finlandthat summer, Rachmaninoff learned of Taneyev’s death, a loss which affected him greatly.[113] By year’s end he had finished his 14 Romances (Op. 34), whose final section, Vocalise, became one of his most popular songs.[114]

Leaving Russia, immigration to the US, and concert pianist, 1917–1925Edit

On the day the February 1917 Revolution began in Saint Petersburg, Rachmaninoff performed a piano recital in Moscow in aid of wounded Russian soldiers who had fought in the war.[115] This was followed two months later with a visit to Ivanovka, where he found the house in chaos after a group of Social Revolutionary Party members seized it as their own communal property.[116] Despite having invested most of his earnings on the estate Rachmaninoff left after three weeks, vowing never to return.[117] It was soon confiscated by the communist authorities and became derelict.[118]
Following an August break with his family in the more peaceful Crimea, he performed at nearby Yalta on 5 September, which was to be his final concert in Russia. On his return to Moscow, the political tension surrounding the October Revolutionfound the composer keeping his family safe indoors as often as possible and being involved in a collective at his apartment building, attending committee meetings and carrying out civil guard duties at night. He completed revisions to his Piano Concerto No. 1 among gunshots and rallies outside.[119][120] Amidst such turmoil, Rachmaninoff received an unexpected offer to perform ten piano recitals across Scandinavia which he immediately accepted, using it as an excuse to quickly obtain permits for his family to leave the country.[121] On 22 December 1917, the Rachmaninoffs left Saint Petersburg by train to the Finnish border, from where they travelled through Finland on an open sledge and train to Helsinki. Carrying what they could pack into their small suitcases, Rachmaninoff brought some notebooks with sketches of compositions and scores to the first act of his unfinished opera Monna Vanna and Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel. They arrived in Stockholm, Sweden on 24 December. In January 1918, they relocated to Copenhagen, Denmark and, with the help of friend and composer Nikolai von Struve, settled on the ground floor of a house.[122] In debt and in need of money, the 44-year-old Rachmaninoff chose performing as his main source of income, as a career solely in composition was too restrictive.[123]His piano repertoire was small, which prompted the start of regular practise of his technique and learning new pieces to play. Rachmaninoff toured between February and October 1918.[124][125]
During the Scandinavian tour, Rachmaninoff received three offers from the US: to become the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestrafor two years, to conduct 110 concerts in 30 weeks for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and to give 25 piano recitals.[125] He declined them all, worried about such a commitment in a country he hardly knew and had few fond memories of from his debut tour in 1909. Yet Rachmaninoff now considered the United States as financially advantageous, as he would not earn enough to support his family through composition alone. He was unable to afford the travel fees, but his fortunes changed when Russian banker and fellow emigre Alexander Kamenka agreed to give him an advance loan for the journey.[125] He also received assistance from friends and admirers; pianist Ignaz Friedmangave them $2,000.[123] On 1 November 1918, the family boarded the SS Bergensfjord in Oslo, Norway bound for New York City, arriving eleven days later. News of Rachmaninoff’s arrival spread, causing a crowd of musicians, artists, and fans to gather outside The Sherry-Netherland hotel where he was staying.[125]
Rachmaninoff quickly dealt with business, hiring Dagmar Rybner, daughter of the Professor of Music at Columbia University, as his secretary, interpreter, and aide in dealing with American life.[125] He reunited with Josef Hofmann who informed several concert managers that the composer was available and suggested that Rachmaninoff use the services of Charles Ellis as his booking agent. The composer agreed, and Ellis organised 36 performances for the 1918–1919 concert season; the first took place on 8 December 1918 at Providence, Rhode Island with a piano recital. Rachmaninoff, still in recovery from a case of the Spanish flu, included his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the program.[126]Before the tour he had received offers from numerous piano manufacturers to tour with their instruments, yet he chose Steinway, the only one that did not offer him money. Steinway’s association with Rachmaninoff continued for the rest of his life.[127][128]
With the concert season over in April 1919, Rachmaninoff took his family on a break to San Francisco, California where he recuperated and prepared for the upcoming season. He adopted such a schedule over the next several years, performing across the country followed by a period of rest and practise. Performing allowed him to become financially secure without much difficulty, and he and his family lived an upper middle class life with servants, a chef, and chauffeur.[129]They recreated the atmosphere of their Ivanovka estate in their New York City home, entertaining Russian guests, employing Russians and observing Russian customs.[130]Though he could speak some English, Rachmaninoff had all his correspondence translated into Russian.[131] He allowed himself some luxury, including quality tailored suits and the latest model of cars.[129]
In 1920, Rachmaninoff signed a recording contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company which earned him some much needed income and began his longtime association with RCA.[127] During a family holiday in Goshen, New Yorkthat summer he learned of von Struve’s accidental death, prompting Rachmaninoff to strengthen the ties he had with those still in Russia by arranging with his bank to send regular money and food parcels to his family, friends, students, and those in need.[132][133] Early 1921 saw Rachmaninoff apply for documentation to visit Russia, the only time he would do so after leaving the country, but progress ceased following his decision to undergo surgery for pain in his right temple. The operation failed to relieve his symptoms; he only found relief after having dental work later in the decade.[132] After leaving hospital, he purchased an apartment on 33 Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. There too he maintained a Russian atmosphere by observing Russian customs, serving Russian food, and employing Russian servants.[132]
Rachmaninoff’s first visit to Europe since emigrating to the US occurred in May 1922 with concerts in London.[134] This was followed by the Rachmaninoffs and the Satins reuniting in Dresden, after which the composer prepared for a hectic 1922–1923 concert season of 71 performances in five months. For a while he rented a railway carriage that was fitted with a piano and belongings to save time packing and unpacking suitcases.[135] In 1924, Rachmaninoff declined an invitation to become conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[123] In the following year, after the death of the husband of his daughter Tatiana, he founded TAIR, a Paris publishing company named after his daughters and specialising in works by himself and other Russian composers.[136]

Touring, final compositions, and Villa Senar, 1926–1942Edit

Demanding tour schedules caused Rachmaninoff’s composition output to slow significantly; between his arrival to the US in 1918 and his death, he completed just six compositions barring some revisions to previous works and piano transcriptions for his concert repertoire.[137] The composer later admitted that by leaving Russia, “I left behind my desire to compose: losing my country, I lost myself also”.[138] In 1926, after concentrating on touring for the past eight years, he took a year’s break from performing and completed the first two of the last of his six pieces, the Piano Concerto No. 4, which he had started in 1917, and Three Russian Songs which he dedicated to Leopold Stokowski.[139][140] Rachmaninoff sought the company of fellow Russian musicians and befriended pianist Vladimir Horowitz in 1928.[141] The men remained supportive of each other’s work, each making a point of attending concerts given by the other.[142] Horowitz remained a champion of Rachmaninoff’s solo works and his Piano Concerto No. 3, about which Rachmaninoff remarked publicly after a performance in 1942: “This is the way I always dreamed my concerto should be played, but I never expected to hear it that way on Earth.”[142] In 1930, in a rare occurrence, Rachmaninoff allowed Italian composer Ottorino Respighi to orchestrate pieces from his Études-Tableaux, Op. 33 (1911) and the Études-Tableaux, Op. 39 (1917), giving Respighi the inspirations behind the compositions.[143]
From 1929 to 1931, Rachmaninoff spent his summers in France at Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines near Rambouillet, meeting with fellow Russian emigres and his daughters. By 1930, his desire to compose had returned and sought a new location to write new pieces. He bought a plot of land in Switzerland near Hertenstein, Lucerne and oversaw the construction of his new home, naming it Villa Senarafter the first two letters of his and his wife’s name, adding the “r” from the family name.[134][144] Rachmaninoff would spend the summer at Villa Senar until 1939, often with his daughters and grandchildren, with whom he would partake in one of his favourite activities, driving his motorboat on Lake Lucerne.[144] In the comfort of his own villa, Rachmaninoff completed his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in 1934 and Symphony in 1936.
In 1931, Rachmaninoff and several others signed an article in The New York Times that criticised the cultural policies of the Soviet Union. The composer’s music suffered a boycott in Russia as a result from the backlash in the Soviet press, lasting until 1933.[134]
The 1939–40 concert season saw Rachmaninoff perform fewer concerts than usual, totalling 43 appearances that were mostly in the US. The tour continued with dates across England, after which Rachmaninoff visited his daughter Tatyana in Paris followed by a return to Villa Senar. He was unable to perform for a while after slipping on the floor at the villa and injuring himself. He recovered enough to perform at the Lucerne International Music Festival on 11 August 1939. It was to be his final concert in Europe. He returned to Paris two days later, where Rachmaninoff, his wife, and two daughters were together for the last time before the composer left a now war-torn Europe on 23 August.[145][146]Rachmaninoff would support Russia’s war effort against Nazi Germanythroughout the course of World War II, donating receipts from many of his concerts that season in benefit of the Red Army.[147]
Upon his return to the US, Rachmaninoff performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra in New York City with conductor Eugene Ormandyon 26 November and 3 December 1939, as part of the orchestra’s special series of concerts dedicated to the composer in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of his US debut.[148] The final concert on 10 December saw Rachmaninoff conduct his Symphony No. 3 and The Bells, marking his first conducting post since 1917.[149][150] The concert season left Rachmaninoff tired, despite calling it “rather successful”, and spent the summer resting from minor surgery at Orchard’s Point, an estate near Huntington, New York on Long Island.[151][149] During this restful period Rachmaninoff completed his final composition, Symphonic Dances (Op. 45). It is his only piece he composed in its entirety while living in the US. Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered the piece in January 1941, which Rachmaninoff attended.[148]
In December 1939, Rachmaninoff began an extensive recording period which lasted until February 1942 and included his Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 3 and Symphony No. 3 at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.[149]In the early 1940s, Rachmaninoff was approached by the makers of the British film Dangerous Moonlight to write a short concerto-like piece for use in the film, but he declined. The job went to Richard Addinsell and the orchestrator Roy Douglas, who came up with the Warsaw Concerto.[152]

Illness, move to California, and death, 1942–1943Edit

In early 1942, Rachmaninoff was advised by his doctor to relocate to a warmer climate to improve his health after suffering from sclerosis, lumbago, neuralgia, high blood pressure, and headaches.[153] After completing his final studio recording sessions during this time in February,[154] a move to Long Island fell through after the composer and his wife expressed a greater interest in California, and initially settled in a leased home on Tower Road in Beverly Hills in May.[153]

Sergei Rachmaninoff – Wikipedia

en.m.wikipedia.org

Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff[a][b](1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russiancomposer, virtuoso pianist and conductor of the late Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular in the Romantic repertoire.
Born into a musical family, Rachmaninoff took up the piano at age four. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, having already composed several piano and orchestral pieces. In 1897, following the negative critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. For the next sixteen years, Rachmaninoff conducted at the Bolshoi Theatre, relocated to Dresden, Germany, and toured the United States for the first time.
Following the Russian Revolution, Rachmaninoff and his family left Russia; in 1918, they settled in the United States, first in New York City. With his main source of income coming from piano and conducting performances, demanding tour schedules led to a reduction in his time for composition; between 1918 and 1943, he completed just six works, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. By 1942, his failing health led to his relocation to Beverly Hills, California. One month before his death from advanced melanoma, Rachmaninoff was granted American citizenship.
In Rachmaninoff’s work, early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and rich orchestral colors.[3] Rachmaninoff often featured the piano in his compositions, and he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument through his own skills as a pianist.

Contents

Biography

Ancestry and early years, 1873–1885

Moscow Conservatory and first compositions, 1885–1894

Symphony No. 1, depression, and conducting debut, 1894–1900

Recovery, emergence, and conducting, 1900–1906

Move to Dresden and first US tour, 1906–1917

Leaving Russia, immigration to the US, and concert pianist, 1917–1925

Touring, final compositions, and Villa Senar, 1926–1942

Illness, move to California, and death, 1942–1943

Works

Compositional style

Fluctuating reputation

Pianism

Technique

Tone

Memory

Interpretations

Speculations about Marfan syndrome and acromegaly

Recordings

Phonograph

Piano rolls

Media

As performer

As composer

Popular culture

Films about Rachmaninoff

Use of Rachmaninoff’s music in films

See also

Notes

References

Bibliography

Free scores

BiographyEdit

Ancestry and early years, 1873–1885Edit

Sergei was born into a family of the Russian aristocracy in the Russian Empire. In their first known genealogy, compiled in the 1680s by Perfiliy Rakhmaninov, the family derives its own origin from the Moldovan rulers Dragoshi, who ruled Moldavia and Wallachia from 1350 to 1552[4]descending from Vasile, nicknamed Rachmaninov (“Rachmanin” in Old Russian, meaning lazy),[5][6] a son of the Moldavian prince Stephen the Great.[7][8] Rachmaninoff’s family had strong musical and military leanings. His paternal grandfather, Arkady Alexandrovich, was a musician who had taken lessons from Irish composer John Field.[9] His father, Vasily Arkadyevich Rachmaninoff (1841–1916), was an army officer and amateur pianist who married Lyubov Petrovna Butakova (1853–1929), the daughter of a wealthy army general who gave her five estates as part of her dowry. The couple had three sons and three daughters, Rachmaninoff being their fourth child.[10]
Rachmaninoff was born in the Semyonovo estate, Zhglovskoy parish, Starorussky County, Novgorod Governorate. It is unclear which of two family estates he was born on: Oneg near Veliky Novgorod, or Semyonovo near Staraya Russa. His birth was registered in a church in the latter,[11]but he was raised in Oneg until age nine and cited it as his birthplace in his adult life.[12][13] He began piano and music lessons organised by his mother at age four.[12] She noticed his ability to reproduce passages from memory without a wrong note. Upon hearing news of the boy’s gift, Arkady suggested she hire Anna Ornatskaya, a teacher and recent graduate of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, to live with the family and begin formal teaching. Rachmaninoff dedicated his piano composition “Spring Waters” from 12 Romances, Op. 14 to Ornatskaya.[14]
Rachmaninoff’s father had to auction off the Oneg estate in 1882 due to his financial incompetence; the family’s five estates were now reduced to one. Rachmaninoff remained critical of his father in later life, describing him as “a wastrel, a compulsive gambler, a pathological liar, and a skirt chaser”.[15][16] The family moved to a small flat in Saint Petersburg.[17] In 1883, Ornatskaya arranged for Rachmaninoff, now 10, to study music at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Later that year his sister Sofia died of diphtheria and his father left the family for Moscow.[10] His maternal grandmother stepped in to help raise the children with particular focus on their spiritual life, regularly taking Rachmaninoff to Russian Orthodox Church services where he first experienced liturgical chants and church bells, two features he would incorporate in his future compositions.[17]
In 1885, Rachmaninoff suffered further loss when his sister Yelena died at age eighteen of pernicious anemia. She was an important musical influence to Rachmaninoff who had introduced him to the works of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. As a respite, his grandmother took him to a farm retreat by the Volkhov Riverwhere Rachmaninoff developed a love for rowing.[10] At the Conservatory, however, he had adopted a relaxed attitude and failed his general education classes, and purposely altered his report cards in what composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakovcalled a period of “purely Russian self-delusion and laziness”.[18]Rachmaninoff performed at events held at the Moscow Conservatory during this time, including those attended by the Grand Duke Konstantin and other notable figures, but upon failing his spring exams Ornatskaya notified his mother that his admission to further education might be revoked.[10] His mother then consulted with Alexander Siloti, her nephew and an accomplished pianist and student of Franz Liszt, who recommended he be transferred to the Moscow Conservatory and receive lessons from his former teacher, the more strict Nikolai Zverev,[19][20] which lasted until 1888.[21]

Moscow Conservatory and first compositions, 1885–1894Edit

In the autumn of 1885, Rachmaninoff moved in with Zverev and stayed for almost four years, during which he befriended fellow pupil Alexander Scriabin.[22] After two years of tuition, the fifteen year old Rachmaninoff was awarded a Rubinstein scholarship,[23]and graduated from the lower division of the Conservatory to become a pupil of Siloti in advanced piano, Sergei Taneyev in counterpoint, and Anton Arensky in free composition.[24] In 1889, a rift formed between Rachmaninoff and Zverev, now his adviser, after Zverev turned down the composer’s request for assistance in renting a piano and greater privacy to compose. Zverev, who believed composition was a waste for talented pianists, refused to speak to Rachmaninoff for some time and organised for him to live with his uncle and aunt Satin and their family in Moscow.[25] Rachmaninoff then found his first romance in Vera, the youngest daughter of the neighbouring Skalon family, but her mother objected and forbade Rachmaninoff to write to her, leaving him to correspond with her older sister Natalia.[26] It is from these letters that many of Rachmaninoff’s earliest compositions can be traced.[19]
Rachmaninoff spent his summer break in 1890 with the Satins at Ivanovka, their private country estate near Tambov, to which the composer would return many times until 1917.[27] The peaceful and bucolic surroundings became a source of inspiration for the composer who completed many compositions while at the estate, including his Op. 1, the Piano Concerto , which he dedicated to Siloti, in July 1891.[28] Also that year, Rachmaninoff completed the one-movement Youth Symphony and the symphonic poem Prince Rostislav.[10] Siloti left the Moscow Conservatory after the academic year ended in 1891 and Rachmaninoff asked to take his final piano exams a year early to avoid being assigned a different teacher. Despite little faith from Siloti and Conservatory director Vasily Safonov as he had just three weeks’ preparation, Rachmaninoff received assistance from a recent graduate who was familiar with the tests, and passed each one with honours in July 1891. Three days later, he passed his annual theory and composition exams.[29] Progress was unexpectedly halted in the latter half of 1891 when he contracted a severe case of malaria during his summer break at Ivankova.[30][31]
During his final year at the Conservatory, Rachmaninoff performed his first independent concert, where he premiered his Trio élégiaque in February 1892, followed by a performance of the first movement of his Piano Concerto No. 1 a month later.[32] His request to take his final theory and composition exams a year early was also granted, for which he wrote Aleko, a one-act opera based on the narrative poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin, in seventeen days.[33][28][34] It premiered in May 1892 at the Bolshoi Theatrewhich Tchaikovsky attended and praised Rachmaninoff for his work.[35]Rachmaninoff believed it was “sure to fail”, but the production was so successful the theatre agreed to produce it starring singer Feodor Chaliapin who would become a lifelong friend.[36][19] Aleko earned Rachmaninoff the highest mark at the Conservatory and a Great Gold Medal, a distinction only previously awarded to Taneyev and Arseny Koreshchenko.[19] Zverev, a member of the exam committee, gave the composer his gold watch, thus ending years of estrangement.[37] On 29 May 1892, the Conservatory issued Rachmaninoff with a diploma which allowed him to officially style himself as a “Free Artist”.[10]
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Upon graduating, Rachmaninoff continued to compose and signed a 500-rouble publishing contract with Gutheil, under which Aleko, Two Pieces (Op. 2) and Six Songs (Op. 4) were among the first published.[37]The composer had previously earned 15 roubles a month in giving piano lessons.[38] He spent the summer of 1892 on the estate of Ivan Konavalov, a rich landowner in the Kostroma Oblast, and moved back with the Satins in the Arbat District.[10] Delays in getting paid by Gutheil saw Rachmaninoff seeking other sources of income which led to an engagement at the Moscow Electrical Exhibition in September 1892, his public debut as a pianist, where he premiered his landmark Prelude in C-sharp minor from his five-part piano composition piece Morceaux de fantaisie (Op. 3). He was paid 50 roubles for his appearance.[39][37][40] It was well received and became one of his most enduring pieces.[41][42] In 1893, he completed his tone poem The Rock, dedicated to Rimsky-Korsakov.
In 1893, Rachmaninoff spent a productive summer with friends at an estate in Kharkiv Oblast where he composed several pieces, including Fantaisie-Tableaux (aka Suite No. 1, Op. 5) and Morceaux de salon (Op. 10).[43][44] In September, he published Six Songs (Op. 8), a group of songs set to translations by Aleksey Pleshcheyevof Ukrainian and German poems.[45]Rachmaninoff returned to Moscow, where Tchaikovsky agreed to conduct The Rock for an upcoming European tour. During his subsequent trip to Kievto conduct performances of Aleko, he learned of Tchaikovsky’s death from cholera.[46] The news left Rachmaninoff stunned; later that day, he started work on his Trio élégiaquefor piano, violin and cello as a tribute, which he completed within a month.[47][48] The music’s aura of gloom reveals the depth and sincerity of Rachmaninoff’s grief for his idol.[49]The piece debuted at the first concert devoted to Rachmaninoff’s compositions on 31 January 1894.[48]

Symphony No. 1, depression, and conducting debut, 1894–1900Edit

Rachmaninoff entered a decline following Tchaikovsky’s death. He lacked the inspiration to compose, and the management of the Grand Theatre had lost interest in showcasing Alekoand dropped it from the program.[50]To earn more money, Rachmaninoff returned to giving piano lessons,[51]and in late 1895 agreed to a three-month tour across Russia with a program shared by Italian violinist Teresina Tua. The tour was not enjoyable for the composer and he quit before it ended, thus sacrificing his performance fees. In a more desperate plea for money, Rachmaninoff pawned his gold watch given to him by Zverev.[52] In September 1895, before the tour started, Rachmaninoff completed his Symphony No. 1 (Op. 13), a work conceived in January and based on chants he had heard in Russian Orthodox church services.[52]Rachmaninoff had worked so hard on it that he could not return to composition until he heard the piece performed.[53] This lasted until October 1896, when “a rather large sum of money” that was not his was stolen from Rachmaninoff during a train journey and he had to work to recoup the losses. Among the pieces composed were Six Choruses (Op. 15) and Six moments musicaux (Op. 16), his final completed composition for several months.[54]
Rachmaninoff’s fortunes took a turn following the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 on 28 March 1897 in one of a long-running series of Russian Symphony Concerts devoted to Russian music. The piece was brutally panned by critic and nationalist composer César Cui, who likened it to a depiction of the ten plagues of Egypt, suggesting it would be admired by the “inmates” of a music conservatory in Hell.[55] The deficiencies of the performance, conducted by Alexander Glazunov, were not commented on by other critics,[49] but according to a memoir from Alexander Ossovsky, a close friend of Rachmaninoff,[56][57]Glazunov made poor use of rehearsal time, and the concert’s program itself, which contained two other premières, was also a factor. Other witnesses suggested that Glazunov, an alcoholic, may have been drunk, although this was never intimated by Rachmaninoff.[58][59] Following the reaction to his first symphony, Rachmaninoff wrote in May 1897 that “I’m not at all affected” by its lack of success or critical reaction, but felt “deeply distressed and heavily depressed by the fact that my Symphony … did not please me at all after its first rehearsal.” He thought its performance was poor, particularly Glazunov’s contribution.[60] The piece was not performed for the rest of Rachmaninoff’s life, but he revised it into a four-hand piano arrangement in 1898.
Rachmaninoff fell into a depression that lasted for three years, during which he had writer’s block and composed almost nothing. He described this time as “Like the man who had suffered a stroke and for a long time had lost the use of his head and hands”.[61] He made a living by giving piano lessons.[62] A stroke of good fortune came from Savva Mamontov, a Russian industrialist and founder of the Moscow Private Russian Opera Company, who offered Rachmaninoff the post of assistant conductor for the 1897–98 season. The cash-strapped composer accepted, conducting Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns as his first opera on 12 October 1897.[63] By the end of February 1899, Rachmaninoff attempted composition and completed two short piano pieces, Morceau de Fantaisie and Fughetta in F major. Two months later, he travelled to London for the first time to perform and conduct, earning positive reviews.[64]
During his time conducting in Moscow, Rachmaninoff was engaged to Natalia Satina. However, the Russian Orthodox church and Satina’s parents opposed their announcement, thwarting their plans for marriage. Rachmaninoff’s depression worsened in late 1899 following an unproductive summer; he composed one song, “Fate”, which later became one of his Twelve Songs (Op. 21), and left compositions for a proposed return visit to London unfulfilled.[65] In an attempt to revive his desire to compose, his aunt arranged for the writer Leo Tolstoy, whom Rachmaninoff greatly admired, to have the composer visit his home and receive words of encouragement. The visit was unsuccessful, doing nothing to help him compose with the fluency he had before.[66][67]

Recovery, emergence, and conducting, 1900–1906Edit

By 1900, Rachmaninoff had become so self-critical that, despite numerous attempts, composing had become near impossible. His aunt then suggested professional help, having received successful treatment from a family friend, physician and amateur musician Nikolai Dahl, to which Rachmaninoff agreed without resistance.[68] Between January and April 1900, Rachmaninoff underwent hypnotherapy and psychotherapy sessions with Dahl on a daily basis, specifically structured to improve his sleep patterns, mood, and appetite and reignite his desire to compose. That summer, Rachmaninoff felt that “new musical ideas began to stir” and successfully resumed composition.[69]His first fully completed work, the Piano Concerto , was finished in April 1901; it is dedicated to Dahl. After the first and last movement premiered in December 1900 with Rachmaninoff as the soloist, the entire piece was first performed in 1901 and was enthusiastically received.[70] The piece earned the composer a Glinka Award, the first of five awarded to him throughout his life, and a 500-rouble prize in 1904.[71]
Amid his professional career success, Rachmaninoff married Natalia Satina on 12 May 1902 after a three-year engagement.[72] Because they were first cousins, the marriage was forbidden under a Canon law imposed by the Russian Orthodox Church; in addition, Rachmaninoff was not a regular church attendee and avoided confession, two things a priest would have had to confirm that he did in signing a marriage certificate.[73] To circumvent the church’s opposition, the couple used their military background and organised a small ceremony in a chapel in a Moscow suburb army barracks with Siloti and the cellist Anatoliy Brandukov as best men.[74] They received the smaller of two houses at the Ivanovka estate as a present and went on a three-month honeymoon across Europe.[72] Upon their return, they settled in Moscow, where they had two daughters, Irina Sergeievna Rachmaninova (1903–1969) and Tatiana Sergeievna Rachmaninova (1907–1961).[75][76][77]Rachmaninoff resumed work as a music teacher at St. Catherine’s Women’s College and the Elizabeth Institute.[78] By February 1903 he had completed his largest piano composition of his career at the time, the Variations on a Theme of Chopin(Op. 22).[78] Development on other pieces was disrupted after Natalia, Irina, and he were struck with illness during their summer break at Ivanovka.[79]
In 1904, in a career change, Rachmaninoff agreed to become the conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre for two seasons. He earned a mixed reputation during his time at the post, enforcing strict discipline and demanding high standards of performance.[80] Influenced by Richard Wagner, he pioneered the modern arrangement of the orchestra players in the pit and the modern custom of standing while conducting. He also worked with each soloist on their part, even accompanying them on the piano.[81] The theatre staged the premiere of his operas The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini.[82]
In the course of his second season as conductor, Rachmaninoff lost interest in his post. The social and political unrest surrounding the 1905 Revolution was beginning to affect the performers and theatre staff, who staged protests and demands for improved wages and conditions. Rachmaninoff remained largely uninterested in the politics surrounding him and the revolutionary spirit had made working conditions increasingly difficult.[83] In February 1906, after conducting 50 performances in the first season and 39 in the second, Rachmaninoff handed in his resignation.[84] He then took his family on an extended tour around Italy with the hope of completing new works, but illness struck his wife and daughter, and they returned to Ivanovka.[85] Money soon became an issue following Rachmaninoff’s resignation from his posts at St. Catherine’s and Elizabeth schools, leaving him only the option of composing.[86]

Move to Dresden and first US tour, 1906–1917Edit

Increasingly unhappy with the political turmoil in Russia and in need of seclusion from his lively social life to be able to compose, Rachmaninoff with his family left Moscow for Dresden, Germany, in November 1906.[87] The city had become a favourite of both Rachmaninoff and Natalia, presenting them with a more vibrant musical atmosphere and favourable opportunities. The family stayed in Dresden until 1909, only returning to Russia for their summer breaks at Ivanovka.[88] During a visit to Leipzig, he entered an art gallery which housed The Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin. The painting served as the inspiration for Rachmaninoff’s orchestral work of the same name, Op. 29.[89] Despite occasional periods of depression, apathy, and little faith in any of his work,[90] Rachmaninoff started on his Symphony No. 2 (Op. 27) in 1906, twelve years after the disastrous premiere of his first.[91] While writing it, Rachmaninoff and the family returned to Russia, but the composer detoured to Paris to take part in Sergei Diaghilev’s season of Russian concerts in May 1907. His performance as the soloist in his Piano Concerto No. 2 with an encore of his Prelude in C-sharp minor was a triumphant success.[92] Rachmaninoff regained his sense of self-worth following the enthusiastic reaction to the premiere of his Symphony No. 2 in early 1908, which earned him his second Glinka Award and 1,000 roubles.[93]
While in Dresden, Rachmaninoff agreed to perform and conduct in the United States as part of the 1909–10 concert season with conductor Max Fiedler and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[94] He spent time during breaks at Ivanovka finishing a new piece specially for the visit, his Piano Concerto No. 3 (Op. 30), which he dedicated to Josef Hofmann.[95] The tour saw the composer make 26 performances, 19 as pianist and 7 as conductor, which marked his first recitals without another performer in the program. His first appearance was at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts for a recital on 4 November 1909. The second performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 by the New York Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Gustav Mahler in New York City with the composer as soloist, an experience he personally treasured.[96][97] Though the tour increased the composer’s popularity in America, he declined subsequent offers, including that of conductor of the Boston Symphony, due to the length of time away from Russia and his family.[98][99]
Upon his return home in February 1910, Rachmaninoff became vice president of the Imperial Russian Musical Society, whose president was a member of the royal family.[100]Later in 1910, Rachmaninoff completed his choral work Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Op. 31), but it was banned from performance as it did not follow the format of a typical liturgical church service.[101] For two seasons between 1911 and 1913, Rachmaninoff was appointed permanent conductor of the Philharmonic Society of Moscow; he helped raise its profile and increase audience numbers and receipts.[102] In 1912, Rachmaninoff left the IRMS when he learned that a musician in an administrative post was dismissed for being Jewish.[103]
Soon after his resignation, an exhausted Rachmaninoff sought time for composition and took his family on holiday to Switzerland. They left after one month for Rome for a visit that became a particularly tranquil and influential period for the composer, who lived alone in a small apartment on Piazza di Spagna while his family stayed at a boardinghouse.[104][105]While there he received an anonymous letter that contained a Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Bells by Konstantin Balmont, which affected him greatly, and he began work on his choral symphony of the same title, Op. 35, based on it.[106]This period of composition ended abruptly when Rachmaninoff’s daughters contracted serious cases of typhoid and were treated in Berlin due to their father’s greater trust in German doctors. After six weeks, the Rachmaninoffs returned to their Moscow flat.[107] The composer conducted The Bells at its premiere in Saint Petersburg in late 1913.[108]
In January 1914, Rachmaninoff began a concert tour of England which was enthusiastically received.[108] He was too afraid to travel alone following the death of Raoul Pugno of an unexpected heart attack in his hotel room which left the composer wary of a similar fate.[107] Following the outbreak of war later that year, his position of Inspector of Music at Nobility High School for Girls put him in the group of government servants which prevented him from joining the army, yet the composer made regular charitable donations for the war effort.[109] In 1915, Rachmaninoff completed his second major choral work, All-Night Vigil (Op. 37), after he attended a performance of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and felt disappointed with it. After spending two weeks writing the All-Night Vigil, he passed the score to Sergei Taneyev for proofreading and correcting errors in its polyphony, but it was returned unaltered. It was received so warmly at its Moscow premiere in aid of war relief that four subsequent performances were quickly scheduled.[110]
Scriabin’s death in April 1915 was a tragedy for Rachmaninoff, who went on a piano recital tour devoted to his friend’s compositions to raise funds for Scriabin’s financially-stricken widow.[111] It marked his first public performances of works other than his own.[112] During a vacation in Finlandthat summer, Rachmaninoff learned of Taneyev’s death, a loss which affected him greatly.[113] By year’s end he had finished his 14 Romances (Op. 34), whose final section, Vocalise, became one of his most popular songs.[114]

Leaving Russia, immigration to the US, and concert pianist, 1917–1925Edit

On the day the February 1917 Revolution began in Saint Petersburg, Rachmaninoff performed a piano recital in Moscow in aid of wounded Russian soldiers who had fought in the war.[115] This was followed two months later with a visit to Ivanovka, where he found the house in chaos after a group of Social Revolutionary Party members seized it as their own communal property.[116] Despite having invested most of his earnings on the estate Rachmaninoff left after three weeks, vowing never to return.[117] It was soon confiscated by the communist authorities and became derelict.[118]
Following an August break with his family in the more peaceful Crimea, he performed at nearby Yalta on 5 September, which was to be his final concert in Russia. On his return to Moscow, the political tension surrounding the October Revolutionfound the composer keeping his family safe indoors as often as possible and being involved in a collective at his apartment building, attending committee meetings and carrying out civil guard duties at night. He completed revisions to his Piano Concerto No. 1 among gunshots and rallies outside.[119][120] Amidst such turmoil, Rachmaninoff received an unexpected offer to perform ten piano recitals across Scandinavia which he immediately accepted, using it as an excuse to quickly obtain permits for his family to leave the country.[121] On 22 December 1917, the Rachmaninoffs left Saint Petersburg by train to the Finnish border, from where they travelled through Finland on an open sledge and train to Helsinki. Carrying what they could pack into their small suitcases, Rachmaninoff brought some notebooks with sketches of compositions and scores to the first act of his unfinished opera Monna Vanna and Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel. They arrived in Stockholm, Sweden on 24 December. In January 1918, they relocated to Copenhagen, Denmark and, with the help of friend and composer Nikolai von Struve, settled on the ground floor of a house.[122] In debt and in need of money, the 44-year-old Rachmaninoff chose performing as his main source of income, as a career solely in composition was too restrictive.[123]His piano repertoire was small, which prompted the start of regular practise of his technique and learning new pieces to play. Rachmaninoff toured between February and October 1918.[124][125]
During the Scandinavian tour, Rachmaninoff received three offers from the US: to become the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestrafor two years, to conduct 110 concerts in 30 weeks for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and to give 25 piano recitals.[125] He declined them all, worried about such a commitment in a country he hardly knew and had few fond memories of from his debut tour in 1909. Yet Rachmaninoff now considered the United States as financially advantageous, as he would not earn enough to support his family through composition alone. He was unable to afford the travel fees, but his fortunes changed when Russian banker and fellow emigre Alexander Kamenka agreed to give him an advance loan for the journey.[125] He also received assistance from friends and admirers; pianist Ignaz Friedmangave them $2,000.[123] On 1 November 1918, the family boarded the SS Bergensfjord in Oslo, Norway bound for New York City, arriving eleven days later. News of Rachmaninoff’s arrival spread, causing a crowd of musicians, artists, and fans to gather outside The Sherry-Netherland hotel where he was staying.[125]
Rachmaninoff quickly dealt with business, hiring Dagmar Rybner, daughter of the Professor of Music at Columbia University, as his secretary, interpreter, and aide in dealing with American life.[125] He reunited with Josef Hofmann who informed several concert managers that the composer was available and suggested that Rachmaninoff use the services of Charles Ellis as his booking agent. The composer agreed, and Ellis organised 36 performances for the 1918–1919 concert season; the first took place on 8 December 1918 at Providence, Rhode Island with a piano recital. Rachmaninoff, still in recovery from a case of the Spanish flu, included his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the program.[126]Before the tour he had received offers from numerous piano manufacturers to tour with their instruments, yet he chose Steinway, the only one that did not offer him money. Steinway’s association with Rachmaninoff continued for the rest of his life.[127][128]
With the concert season over in April 1919, Rachmaninoff took his family on a break to San Francisco, California where he recuperated and prepared for the upcoming season. He adopted such a schedule over the next several years, performing across the country followed by a period of rest and practise. Performing allowed him to become financially secure without much difficulty, and he and his family lived an upper middle class life with servants, a chef, and chauffeur.[129]They recreated the atmosphere of their Ivanovka estate in their New York City home, entertaining Russian guests, employing Russians and observing Russian customs.[130]Though he could speak some English, Rachmaninoff had all his correspondence translated into Russian.[131] He allowed himself some luxury, including quality tailored suits and the latest model of cars.[129]
In 1920, Rachmaninoff signed a recording contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company which earned him some much needed income and began his longtime association with RCA.[127] During a family holiday in Goshen, New Yorkthat summer he learned of von Struve’s accidental death, prompting Rachmaninoff to strengthen the ties he had with those still in Russia by arranging with his bank to send regular money and food parcels to his family, friends, students, and those in need.[132][133] Early 1921 saw Rachmaninoff apply for documentation to visit Russia, the only time he would do so after leaving the country, but progress ceased following his decision to undergo surgery for pain in his right temple. The operation failed to relieve his symptoms; he only found relief after having dental work later in the decade.[132] After leaving hospital, he purchased an apartment on 33 Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. There too he maintained a Russian atmosphere by observing Russian customs, serving Russian food, and employing Russian servants.[132]
Rachmaninoff’s first visit to Europe since emigrating to the US occurred in May 1922 with concerts in London.[134] This was followed by the Rachmaninoffs and the Satins reuniting in Dresden, after which the composer prepared for a hectic 1922–1923 concert season of 71 performances in five months. For a while he rented a railway carriage that was fitted with a piano and belongings to save time packing and unpacking suitcases.[135] In 1924, Rachmaninoff declined an invitation to become conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[123] In the following year, after the death of the husband of his daughter Tatiana, he founded TAIR, a Paris publishing company named after his daughters and specialising in works by himself and other Russian composers.[136]

Touring, final compositions, and Villa Senar, 1926–1942Edit

Demanding tour schedules caused Rachmaninoff’s composition output to slow significantly; between his arrival to the US in 1918 and his death, he completed just six compositions barring some revisions to previous works and piano transcriptions for his concert repertoire.[137] The composer later admitted that by leaving Russia, “I left behind my desire to compose: losing my country, I lost myself also”.[138] In 1926, after concentrating on touring for the past eight years, he took a year’s break from performing and completed the first two of the last of his six pieces, the Piano Concerto No. 4, which he had started in 1917, and Three Russian Songs which he dedicated to Leopold Stokowski.[139][140] Rachmaninoff sought the company of fellow Russian musicians and befriended pianist Vladimir Horowitz in 1928.[141] The men remained supportive of each other’s work, each making a point of attending concerts given by the other.[142] Horowitz remained a champion of Rachmaninoff’s solo works and his Piano Concerto No. 3, about which Rachmaninoff remarked publicly after a performance in 1942: “This is the way I always dreamed my concerto should be played, but I never expected to hear it that way on Earth.”[142] In 1930, in a rare occurrence, Rachmaninoff allowed Italian composer Ottorino Respighi to orchestrate pieces from his Études-Tableaux, Op. 33 (1911) and the Études-Tableaux, Op. 39 (1917), giving Respighi the inspirations behind the compositions.[143]
From 1929 to 1931, Rachmaninoff spent his summers in France at Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines near Rambouillet, meeting with fellow Russian emigres and his daughters. By 1930, his desire to compose had returned and sought a new location to write new pieces. He bought a plot of land in Switzerland near Hertenstein, Lucerne and oversaw the construction of his new home, naming it Villa Senarafter the first two letters of his and his wife’s name, adding the “r” from the family name.[134][144] Rachmaninoff would spend the summer at Villa Senar until 1939, often with his daughters and grandchildren, with whom he would partake in one of his favourite activities, driving his motorboat on Lake Lucerne.[144] In the comfort of his own villa, Rachmaninoff completed his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in 1934 and Symphony in 1936.
In 1931, Rachmaninoff and several others signed an article in The New York Times that criticised the cultural policies of the Soviet Union. The composer’s music suffered a boycott in Russia as a result from the backlash in the Soviet press, lasting until 1933.[134]
The 1939–40 concert season saw Rachmaninoff perform fewer concerts than usual, totalling 43 appearances that were mostly in the US. The tour continued with dates across England, after which Rachmaninoff visited his daughter Tatyana in Paris followed by a return to Villa Senar. He was unable to perform for a while after slipping on the floor at the villa and injuring himself. He recovered enough to perform at the Lucerne International Music Festival on 11 August 1939. It was to be his final concert in Europe. He returned to Paris two days later, where Rachmaninoff, his wife, and two daughters were together for the last time before the composer left a now war-torn Europe on 23 August.[145][146]Rachmaninoff would support Russia’s war effort against Nazi Germanythroughout the course of World War II, donating receipts from many of his concerts that season in benefit of the Red Army.[147]
Upon his return to the US, Rachmaninoff performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra in New York City with conductor Eugene Ormandyon 26 November and 3 December 1939, as part of the orchestra’s special series of concerts dedicated to the composer in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of his US debut.[148] The final concert on 10 December saw Rachmaninoff conduct his Symphony No. 3 and The Bells, marking his first conducting post since 1917.[149][150] The concert season left Rachmaninoff tired, despite calling it “rather successful”, and spent the summer resting from minor surgery at Orchard’s Point, an estate near Huntington, New York on Long Island.[151][149] During this restful period Rachmaninoff completed his final composition, Symphonic Dances (Op. 45). It is his only piece he composed in its entirety while living in the US. Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered the piece in January 1941, which Rachmaninoff attended.[148]
In December 1939, Rachmaninoff began an extensive recording period which lasted until February 1942 and included his Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 3 and Symphony No. 3 at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.[149]In the early 1940s, Rachmaninoff was approached by the makers of the British film Dangerous Moonlight to write a short concerto-like piece for use in the film, but he declined. The job went to Richard Addinsell and the orchestrator Roy Douglas, who came up with the Warsaw Concerto.[152]

Illness, move to California, and death, 1942–1943Edit

In early 1942, Rachmaninoff was advised by his doctor to relocate to a warmer climate to improve his health after suffering from sclerosis, lumbago, neuralgia, high blood pressure, and headaches.[153] After completing his final studio recording sessions during this time in February,[154] a move to Long Island fell through after the composer and his wife expressed a greater interest in California, and initially settled in a leased home on Tower Road in Beverly Hills in May.[153]

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