27 February 2011

Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No.2

The four piano concertos by Rachmaninov are one of the absolute highlights of 20th century piano music, which is probably also because Rachmaninov himself was an incredible pianist (he also had massive hands apparently). I always have difficulty deciding which one's my favourite because there's so many bits in every single concerto that I absolutely love. But I've decided to post the second piano concerto because it is the first one that I fell in love with and I still think it's incredible. The concerto not only shows what an amazing composer Rachmaninov was for the piano, but how amazing he was at writing for an entire orchestra.

Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No.2: I Moderato (the first 8 minutes of it anyway).
Played by Nikolai Lugansky (my favourite pianist), with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo.

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was a Russian composer. He was born into a rich family and was a lazy student at the conservatory, but still talented enough to eventually be mentored by Tchaikovksy. After the premiere of Rachmaninov's Symphony No.1 (in 1897), a critic supposedly said it was a "depiction of the Plagues of Egypt, suggesting it would be admired by the "inmates" of a music conservatory in hell." which is rather silly because it's honestly not that bad (the conductor might've been drunk though, which makes it an even better story). Obviously this crappy reception didn't do Rachmaninov much good and he stopped writing music for about two years. Thankfully he recovered from his depression and wrote beauties like this Piano Concerto No.2 (1900-01), The Miserly Knight (1903-05) and Isle of the Dead (1909). After the Russian revolution he moved to Scandinavia for a while, and then permanently to the USA in 1918. He was really busy as a musician out there (playing and conducting) and so between 1918 and 1943 he only wrote 8 pieces but they're amazing ones, like the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Symphonic Dances and his Third Symphony.

If you enjoy this piece, you will have to listen to the rest of the concerto; part of I & beginning of II: Adagio sostenuto, part of II & beginning of III: Allegro scherzando, rest of III. And of course check out the other piano concertos!


  1. Even if I still don't know very much about classical music, it is not difficult at all to believe you when you say: "The four piano concertos by Rachmaninov are one of the absolute highlights of 20th century piano music".

    Of course, right now I only know the one you posted, but I loved it so much I'm definitely going to look for the others. It was a really great listening and a gorgeous piece of music.

  2. Yay, I'm glad you're really liking this piece :D. You'll love the other concertos as well, they're all a little different but sooo good.

    Also, I still want to say thank you so much for commenting on the entries, it's nice to have some feedback and to know how you feel about the music!