16 September 2012

Sergei Rachmaninov - Isle of the Dead

This month's Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival included quite a few amazing concerts. I'd say it's probably one of my favourite classical music festivals, simply because the Rotterdam Philharmonic are always amazing and their programming usually involves a lot of Russian (and you all know how much I love Russian music). Gergiev is of course a legend, and somehow I always feel like it's an honour to see him conduct. This year, I decided to go to only two of the concerts, the first of them with Gergiev himself conducting the R'dam Phil in an amazing program of Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead, Shchedrin's Piano Concerto No.4 (not really a fan) and Prokofiev's Symphony No.5 (one of my favourite symphonies!). I wrote about it here on Bachtrack. I will definitely do a post on Prokofiev's Fifth sometime soon (seriously, it's so great) but first, here's the Isle of the Dead!

Sergei Rachmaninov - Isle of the Dead

Isle of the Dead is a one-movement symphonic poem written by Rachmaninov in 1908. A year earlier he had seen a painting with the same title by Arnold Böcklin, which I posted above. It inspired him to write a piece of music depicted the journey in Charon's boat, across the Styx. You can hear Charon rowing because of the 5/8 time in the music (even if you don't know what this means, you will hear the rowing, trust me!). There is a beautiful coherence to the piece, from start to finish there isn't a single note that shouldn't have been there or anything that you would've wanted differently. It may actually be my favourite Rachmaninov piece (although I am a sucker for his piano concertos, as is everyone else I think). It's a really dark and intense piece of music, but it's all incredibly dynamic and somehow still sounds subtle and just honestly so beautiful. Give it a listen, I hope you'll enjoy it. 

Other YPGTCM posts on Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2.

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