“Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music”
Sergei Rachmaninoff was born on the 1 April 1873 and is widely regarded as a brilliant pianist and one of the last great composers of the Romantic era.
Born into a family of Russian aristocracy, his early influence was Tchaikovsky’s music. Rachmaninoff was famous for having exceptionally large hands, a technically flawless piano technique where his playing was marked by precision and accurate staccato yet maintaining complete control of melodic lines and rhythmic textures.
His music is often described as “dark”, ‘haunting” and yet possesses an innate beauty in harmonic structures and beautiful melodic lines. Subtle counter-melodies add colour and vigour to his piano compositions, often played interchangeably by both hands and this trademark often presents new challenges to each pianist to expound and interpret these sub-melodies in new ways to make the piano “sing”. His orchestral works are well-known for its “conversations” between different sections of the orchestra. Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2 in C minor is perhaps one of the greatest ever written.
During the Russian Revolution in 1917, Rachmaninoff left St Petersburg for Helsinki with his wife and two daughters on an open sled with only a few notebooks and some of his own musical compositions. He later settled in New York in 1918 and accepted the gift of a Steinway piano. It was in the basement of New York’s Steinway Hall that Rachmaninoff befriended the great pianist of the 20th century Vladimir Horowitz in 1928. Horowitz deemed the meeting as a dream come true where he referred to Rachmaninoff as “the musical God of my youth”.
Rachmaninoff died of melanoma on 28 March 1943 in Beverly Hills, California and although his wish was to be buried in his estate in Switzerland, the conditions of the Second World War made his request impossible. He was eventually laid to rest on 1 June in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.