Rachmaninoff, Sergei Vasselievitch


Noted contemporary Russian composer; born in Novgorod, and received Ms first piano lessons from his mother. At nine years of age he entered the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, later was transferred to Moscow, where he became a pupil of Siloti for piano and Arensky for theory, and in 1891 won the great gold medal for piano-playing, also the next year was awarded highest honors for composition. He has made concert tours in Russia both as pianist and as director. In 1899 he visited London, and there conducted his fantasia for orchestra at a Philharmonic concert, also appearing as a pianist. In 1902 he played at Vienna. His chief reputation is as a composer. By many he is considered the most promising of the Russian composers since Tschaikowsky. His one-act opera, Aleko, was successfully produced at Moscow, but most of his compositions are for piano. His orchestral compositions include a fantasia; The Cliff, based on a poem by Lermontov; Bohemian caprice, based on gypsy themes, and a symphony. His operas are Aleko; The Bohemians; The Avaricious Knight; and Francesca da Rimini. He has written between thirty-five and forty songs, about half in Russian, and fourteen with German words, also a cantata, Spring; an Elegiac trio, dedicated to Tschaikowsky; a sonata, a prelude and a dance. His piano compositions include two suites and a fantasie; two concertos; a set of twenty-two variations on a Chopin prelude; Morceaux de fantaisie; and a number of smaller piano-pieces, including a serenade in B minor, a Humoreske, a Barcarolle, six Musical Moments, a Nocturne, an Elegy, Polichinelle, a waltz, two melodies, and ten  or twelve preludes. His Melodic in E minor is based on a folk-song theme, and is characteristic of the Russian spirit. These, at least, are not wanting in the deep feeling and skill in contrast which are attributed to his larger works. Edward Burlingame Hill, in an article in the tude for May, 1905, says that while it is yet too early to determine the precise rank of Rachmaninoff among contemporary composers, he stands, together with Scriabine, at the head of the younger generation of Russian musicians.