Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

To be Constructed

Sergei Rachmaninoff 1873 - 1943

RACHMANINOFF: Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.

Rachmaninoff plays his Piano Concerto 3
Rachmaninoff plays
his Piano Concerto 3
Sergei RachmaninoffSergei Rachmaninoff was born in Semyonovo just outside of Novgorod in the north-west region of Russia, he was the fourth of six children.  Coming from a family that valued music he took lessons with his mother, Lyubov and father, Vasily.

His family were Tatar descendents and had been in the service of the Russian tsars since the 16th century.

His father was not good with money and ended up losing many of their estates. The family moved to St Petersburg because of financial difficulties.  A diphtheria epidemic swept through the city and Sergei and two of his siblings caught the disease, and while he and his brother Vladimir pulled through, his sister Sophia died.  After the death of Sergei's sister, his father left his wife and 5 children.  This deeply hurt Sergei and he spent most of his summers with his grandmother, Butakova in the country.

Rachmaninoff studied at Saint Petersburg Conservatory.  He lacked interest in his musical studies and failed many of his exams.  He was even threatened with expulsion from the conservatory.  In 1885 he was sent to study with Nikolai Zverev in Moscow.  Zverev took many young musicians into his home and taught them both discipline and a real appreciation of music.  He would make them practice for several hours a day, as well as organise cultural outings tosuch "Historical Recitals" by Anton Rubinstein, of the piano from Bach to Liszt, which deeply moved and motivated Rachmaninoff.  He attended Moscow conservatory where he studied with many great musicians and composers, Tchaikovsky. Rachmaninoff soon found himself wanting to compose more and practice less, which irritated Zverev greatly and soon ended their relationship.  Rachmaninoff finished his final exams one year early and left the Moscow conservatory and went to go live with his Aunt Vavara Satina in Ivanovka.

Ivanovka became Rachmaninoff's sanctuary.  He drew much of his inspiration from the endless rolling fields and the solitude.   He completed the Prelude in C# Minor, which was one of the five Morceaux de Fantaisies Opus 3 in 1882, his First Piano Concerto Opus 1 in 1891, several choral pieces, The Rock Opus 7 (1893), a tone poem based on Chekov's Along the Way, and the Trio Elegiaque Opus 9 in 1893, which was dedicated to the passing of both his teacher Zverev and Tchaikovsky.

  One of the major misfortunes in RachmaninoffÕs life was the premier of his first symphony on March 27th in 1897.  The symphony was conducted under Alexander Glazunov, who hated the piece and so under-rehearsed it.  It was romoured he was drunk while conducting it.  The symphony was not well received and in fact was quoted as "one of the seven deadly plagues of Egypt written for a conservatory in hell." Like so many of these violent reviews, it sent Rachmaninoff into a deep depression. He sought help from Dr Nikolai Dahl and after three months he gained the confidence to write again. He completed the Second Piano Concerto Opus 18 in 1901, which he dedicated to Dr Dahl.  This concerto became one of the most loved pieces Rachmaninoff ever wrote and continues so to this day.

In 1902 Rachmaninoff married his second cousin Natalia Satina, which caused some difficultly from the Eastern Orthodox Church's rules about not marrying cousins.

The Russian Revolution, caused Rachmaninoff and his family to move to Dresden Germany and here Rachmaninoff wrote his Second Symphony Opus 27 (1906-08).  He accepted an offer to tour the United States, where he composed the Third Piano Concerto Op. 30 (1909). After its performance, he became greatly respected in America.  He moved to New York in November of 1918.  He did not compose much because of his demand to perform and the need to support his family, but also because he felt that his inspiration was left at home in Russia.

He had two affairs, which we know of. One was with a woman called "Re" and the other with Nina Koshetz a famous Russian singer.  He had somewhat of a difficult life, as evidenced by his passionate, dark, mournful, music.

One of his last works was the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in the summer of 1934.   Rachmaninoff died on March 28th, 1943, in Beverly Hills, California, just a few days before his 70th birthday. He was later buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.  In his final hours, he was said to have heard music in the distance and after being told that there was no such thing, he said:
RACHMANINOFF: Then it is in my head.

The Great Composers


Home Page