Sergey Rachmaninov Pianist And Conductor: Legendary Recordings 1919-1942
The 150th anniversary of Rachmaninov’s birth at the start of April finds his reputation as a composer probably in better shape than it has ever been, certainly since his arrival in the West at the end of 1917.
Rachmaninov’s remarkable melodic gifts, especially his ability to write Piano Lessons Sydney concertos of spellbinding strength and charisma, ought by rights to have made his reputation always secure.But it wasn’t so.
During his 24 years in the West, Rachmaninov (above) composed only six pieces. Partly because of the pressures of his career as a notable recitalist, but primarily because he was so depressed at the reception his music all too often received from critics who regarded him as a glib and superficial tunesmith from an earlier era.
Grove’s Dictionary is today regarded as the most authoritative of all commentaries on music and musicians.However, the 1954 edition disposed of Rachmaninov thus, calling his works ‘monotonous in texture’, and ‘consisting mainly of artificial and gushing tunes’. His success, it said, is ‘not likely to last’.
Happily, there’s very little of that kind of rubbish around today and Rachmaninov is widely regarded as one of the finest 20th Century composers, even though his romanticism is not approved of by all.
‘Rachmaninov’s remarkable melodic gifts, especially his ability to write piano concertos of spellbinding strength and charisma, ought by rights to have made his reputation always secure’
What has suffered though, 80 years after his death, is any real appreciation of his remarkable talents as a performer, both as a conductor (chief conductor at the Bolshoi etc), but especially as a pianist.
In this important year, it’s surely appropriate to take the time to listen to some of his many recordings, beautifully transferred in a 9-CD bargain box from Naxos, that not only show his powers in his own music, but also as a servant of others.
The transfers by Ward Marston are uniformly excellent, while the quality of some of the recordings of the piano concertos, especially the Third, require no apologies whatsoever.These recordings, made between 1920 and 1942, and some equally remarkable piano rolls, readily explain why, back in 2010, when 100 concert pianists were invited to vote for the most significant pianist of the recorded era, Rachmaninov finished comfortably ahead of the field.
Please get your hands on this set and find out why.