Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18

by Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Serge Rachmaninoff

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About the Composer

Serge Rachmaninoff was born April 1, 1873 in Semyonovo, Russia. He died March 28, 1943 in Beverly Hills, California. Rachmaninoff was one of the great, legendary pianists of the 20th century. As a talented composer, he brought down the final curtain on the period of great Russian Romanticism, exemplified by Tchaikovsky (who he met as young man).

As a young composer of immense talent (but modest discipline), Rachmaninoff became a sensation at the age of 25 with his Prelude in C-sharp minor. Yet, throughout his life he relied on his piano performing career to pay the bills and supplement his work as a composer. Many of Rachmaninoff’s compositions were an immediate, popular success, which has led some critics to dismiss him as a lightweight composer. However, his gift for writing a beautiful melody is nearly unrivaled and his talents as a pianist are revealed in the fiendishly difficult piano concertos he wrote for his own performence.

Movements

Moderato: C minor
Allegretto
Largo
Allegro non troppo

About this Piece

The terrible performance (conducted by a drunk Alexander Glazunov and an under-rehearsed orchestra) and negative reviews of the premiere of his First Symphony in 1897 were completely devastating for the 25-year-old Rachmaninoff. Writers block and depression followed, which was only worsened by a visit to the author Leo Tolstoy, who simply scolded the young man with a lecture on laziness.

In January 1900, Rachmaninoff began daily therapy with Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a therapist who had successfully treated Rachmaninoff’s aunt, and who used a combined treatment of positive suggestion, discussion and hypnotherapy. By April, the composer felt well enough to travel to the Mediterranean and returned to Russia several months later with a suitcase of sketches for both an opera and his Second Piano Concerto.

Rachmaninoff initially completed the second and third movements of the concerto, performing them in December of that year. The complete concerto was finished in the summer of 1901 and performed in December. The Second Piano Concerto was an immediate success and great triumph for Rachmaninoff, who dedicated his composition to a humble Russian therapist.

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