Rachmaninoff, Sergei

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1 April 1873 – 28 March 1943), the last significant figure of Russian Romanticism and a leading piano virtuoso of his day, was a composer and pianist. He is best known for his piano concerti and the work Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini for piano and orchestra (1934). Rachmaninoff was born near Lake Ilmen in the Novgorod district on an estate that belonged to his grandparents. His mother was a general's daughter, and his father was a former army colonel. Before his father lost the whole family's wealth in reckless financial schemes and left the family, the boy was destined to become an army general. Sergey's cousin Aleksandr Siloti, a well-known concert pianist and conductor, recognized the boy's talent and recommended that he study piano with the noted tutor and pianist Nikolay Zverev in Moscow. Musical culture owes one of the grand piano virtuosos of the twentieth century to Zverev's stern disciplinarian handling of the son. Sergey enrolled at the Moscow Conservatory for his general education and scientific music topics.

He graduated from the conservatory at the age of 19, receiving a gold medal for his one-act opera Aleko (based on Aleksandr Pushkin's poem Tsygany ["The Gypsies"), which he wrote at the age of 19. Two of his works, the Prelude in C-sharp Minor, which was first performed in public on September 26, 1892, and his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, which was first performed in Moscow on October 27, 1901, launched his success and reputation as a composer and concert pianist. The intro was often ordered by Rachmaninoff's concert audiences, even though the former work was the one that first took him to national notice. After a difficult time of inactivity, the concerto, his first outstanding achievement, rekindled his dreams.

While he was young, Rachmaninoff suffered from mental breakdowns due to the performance or loss of his films and his relationships. Self-doubt and confusion drove him to extreme depression, one of the worst of which occurred after the disappointment of his Symphony No. 1 in D Minor on its first performance in March 1897. The symphony was poorly conducted, and reviewers panned it. When brooding over an unsuccessful love affair, he was referred to a therapist, Nikolay Dahl, who is credited for restoring the young composer's self-confidence, allowing him to compose the Piano Concerto No. 2. (which is dedicated to Dahl).


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