And I had a native land; He is wonderful! A. Pleshcheev (from G. Heine)
Rachmaninov was created from steel and gold; Steel in his hands, gold in his heart. I. Hoffman
“I am a Russian composer, and my homeland has left its mark on my character and my views.” These words belong to S. Rachmaninov, the great composer, brilliant pianist and conductor. All the most important events of Russian social and artistic life were reflected in his creative life, leaving an indelible mark. The formation and flourishing of Rachmaninov’s work falls on the 1890-1900s, a time when the most complex processes took place in Russian culture, the spiritual pulse beat feverishly and nervously. The acutely lyrical feeling of the era inherent in Rachmaninov was invariably associated with the image of his beloved Motherland, with the infinity of its wide expanses, the power and violent prowess of its elemental forces, the gentle fragility of blossoming spring nature.
Rachmaninov’s talent manifested itself early and brightly, although until the age of twelve he did not show much zeal for systematic music lessons. He began learning to play the piano at the age of 4, in 1882 he was admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where, left to his own devices, he pretty much messed around, and in 1885 he was transferred to the Moscow Conservatory. Here Rachmaninoff studied piano with N. Zverev, then A. Siloti; in theoretical subjects and composition – with S. Taneyev and A. Arensky. Living in a boarding house with Zverev (1885-89), he went through a harsh, but very reasonable school of labor discipline, which turned him from a desperate lazy and naughty person into an exceptionally collected and strong-willed person. “The best that is in me, I owe him,” – so Rachmaninov later said about Zverev. At the conservatory, Rachmaninoff was strongly influenced by the personality of P. Tchaikovsky, who, in turn, followed the development of his favorite Seryozha and, after graduating from the conservatory, helped to stage the opera Aleko at the Bolshoi Theater, knowing from his own sad experience how difficult it is for a novice musician to lay your own way.
Rachmaninov graduated from the Conservatory in piano (1891) and composition (1892) with a Grand Gold Medal. By this time, he was already the author of several compositions, including the famous Prelude in C sharp minor, the romance “In the Silence of the Secret Night”, the First Piano Concerto, the opera “Aleko”, written as a graduation work in just 17 days! The Fantasy Pieces that followed, op. 3 (1892), Elegiac Trio “In Memory of a Great Artist” (1893), Suite for two pianos (1893), Moments of Music op. 16 (1896), romances, symphonic works – “The Cliff” (1893), Capriccio on Gypsy Themes (1894) – confirmed the opinion of Rachmaninov as a strong, deep, original talent. The images and moods characteristic of Rachmaninoff appear in these works in a wide range – from the tragic grief of the “Musical Moment” in B minor to the hymnical apotheosis of the romance “Spring Waters”, from the harsh spontaneous-volitional pressure of the “Musical Moment” in E minor to the finest watercolor of the romance “Island “.
Life during these years was difficult. Decisive and powerful in performance and creativity, Rachmaninoff was by nature a vulnerable person, often experiencing self-doubt. Interfered with material difficulties, worldly disorder, wandering in strange corners. And although he was supported by people close to him, primarily the Satin family, he felt lonely. The strong shock caused by the failure of his First Symphony, performed in St. Petersburg in March 1897, led to a creative crisis. For several years Rachmaninoff did not compose anything, but his performing activity as a pianist intensified, and he made his debut as a conductor at the Moscow Private Opera (1897). During these years, he met L. Tolstoy, A. Chekhov, artists of the Art Theater, began a friendship with Fyodor Chaliapin, which Rachmaninov considered one of “the most powerful, deep and subtle artistic experiences.” In 1899, Rachmaninoff performed abroad for the first time (in London), and in 1900 he visited Italy, where sketches of the future opera Francesca da Rimini appeared. A joyful event was the staging of the opera Aleko in St. Petersburg on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of A. Pushkin with Chaliapin as Aleko. Thus, an internal turning point was gradually being prepared, and in the early 1900s. there was a return to creativity. The new century began with the Second Piano Concerto, which sounded like a mighty alarm. Contemporaries heard in him the voice of Time with its tension, explosiveness, and a sense of impending changes. Now the genre of the concert is becoming the leading one, it is in it that the main ideas are embodied with the greatest completeness and inclusiveness. A new stage begins in the life of Rachmaninov.
General recognition in Russia and abroad receives his pianistic and conductor’s activity. 2 years (1904-06) Rachmaninov worked as a conductor at the Bolshoi Theater, leaving in its history the memory of the wonderful productions of Russian operas. In 1907 he took part in the Russian Historical Concerts organized by S. Diaghilev in Paris, in 1909 he performed for the first time in America, where he played his Third Piano Concerto conducted by G. Mahler. Intensive concert activity in the cities of Russia and abroad was combined with no less intense creativity, and in the music of this decade (in the cantata “Spring” – 1902, in the preludes op. 23, in the finales of the Second Symphony and the Third Concerto) there is a lot of ardent enthusiasm and enthusiasm. And in such compositions as the romances “Lilac”, “It’s good here”, in the preludes in D major and G major, “the music of the singing forces of nature” sounded with amazing penetration.
But in the same years, other moods are also felt. Sad thoughts about the motherland and its future fate, philosophical reflections on life and death give rise to tragic images of the First Piano Sonata, inspired by Goethe’s Faust, the symphonic poem “The Island of the Dead” based on the painting by the Swiss artist A. Böcklin (1909), many pages of the Third Concerto, romances op. 26. Internal changes became especially noticeable after 1910. If in the Third Concerto the tragedy is eventually overcome and the concerto ends with a jubilant apotheosis, then in the works that followed it it continuously deepens, bringing to life aggressive, hostile images, gloomy, depressed moods. The musical language becomes more complex, the wide melodic breath so characteristic of Rachmaninov disappears. Such are the vocal-symphonic poem “The Bells” (on the st. E. Poe, translated by K. Balmont – 1913); romances op. 34 (1912) and op. 38 (1916); Etudes-paintings op. 39 (1917). However, it was at this time that Rachmaninoff created works full of high ethical meaning, which became the personification of enduring spiritual beauty, the culmination of Rachmaninov’s melody – “Vocalise” and “All-Night Vigil” for choir a cappella (1915). “Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the magnificent melodies of Oktoikh. I have always felt that a special, special style is needed for their choral processing, and, it seems to me, I found it in the Vespers. I can’t help but confess. that the first performance of it by the Moscow Synodal Choir gave me an hour of the happiest pleasure,” Rachmaninov recalled.
On December 24, 1917, Rachmaninov and his family left Russia, as it turned out, forever. For more than a quarter of a century he lived in a foreign land, in the USA, and this period was mostly full of exhausting concert activity, subject to the cruel laws of the music business. Rachmaninov used a significant part of his fees to provide material support to his compatriots abroad and in Russia. So, the entire collection for the performance in April 1922 was transferred to the benefit of the starving in Russia, and in the fall of 1941 Rakhmaninov sent more than four thousand dollars to the Red Army aid fund.
Abroad, Rachmaninoff lived in isolation, limiting his circle of friends to immigrants from Russia. An exception was made only for the family of F. Steinway, the head of the piano firm, with whom Rachmaninov had friendly relations.
The first years of his stay abroad, Rachmaninov did not leave the thought of the loss of creative inspiration. “After leaving Russia, I lost the desire to compose. Having lost my homeland, I lost myself.” Only 8 years after leaving abroad, Rachmaninov returns to creativity, creates the Fourth Piano Concerto (1926), Three Russian Songs for Choir and Orchestra (1926), Variations on a Theme of Corelli for piano (1931), Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934), Third Symphony (1936), “Symphonic Dances” (1940). These works are the last, highest rise of Rachmaninoff. A mournful feeling of irreparable loss, a burning longing for Russia gives rise to an art of enormous tragic power, reaching its climax in the Symphonic Dances. And in the brilliant Third Symphony, Rachmaninoff embodies the central theme of his work for the last time – the image of the Motherland. The sternly concentrated intense thought of the artist evokes him from the depths of centuries, he arises as an infinitely dear memory. In a complex interweaving of diverse themes, episodes, a broad perspective emerges, a dramatic epic of the fate of the Fatherland is recreated, ending with a victorious life-affirmation. So through all the works of Rachmaninoff he carries the inviolability of his ethical principles, high spirituality, fidelity and inescapable love for the Motherland, the personification of which was his art.
- Museum-estate of Rachmaninov in Ivanovka →
- Piano works by Rachmaninoff →
- Symphonic works of Rachmaninoff →
- Rachmaninov’s chamber-instrumental art →
- Opera works by Rachmaninoff →
- Choral works by Rachmaninoff →
- Romances by Rachmaninoff →
- Rachmaninov-conductor →
Characteristics of creativity
Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff, along with Scriabin, is one of the central figures in Russian music of the 1900s. The work of these two composers attracted especially close attention of contemporaries, they heatedly argued about it, sharp printed discussions began around their individual works. Despite all the dissimilarity of the individual appearance and figurative structure of the music of Rachmaninov and Scriabin, their names often appeared side by side in these disputes and were compared with each other. There were purely external reasons for such a comparison: both were pupils of the Moscow Conservatory, who graduated from it almost simultaneously and studied with the same teachers, both immediately stood out among their peers by the strength and brightness of their talent, receiving recognition not only as highly talented composers, but also as outstanding pianists.
But there was also a lot of things that separated them and sometimes put them on different flanks of musical life. The bold innovator Scriabin, who opened up new musical worlds, was opposed to Rachmaninov as a more traditionally thinking artist who based his work on the solid foundations of the national classical heritage. “G. Rachmaninoff, wrote one of the critics, is the pillar around which all the champions of the real direction are grouped, all those who cherish the foundations laid by Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.
However, for all the difference in the positions of Rachmaninov and Scriabin in their contemporary musical reality, they were brought together not only by the general conditions for the upbringing and growth of a creative personality in their youth, but also by some deeper features of commonality. “A rebellious, restless talent” – this is how Rakhmaninov was once characterized in the press. It was this restless impulsiveness, the excitement of the emotional tone, characteristic of the work of both composers, that made it especially dear and close to wide circles of Russian society at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, with their anxious expectations, aspirations and hopes.
“Scriabin and Rachmaninoff are the two ‘rulers of musical thoughts’ of the modern Russian musical world <...> Now they share hegemony among themselves in the musical world,” admitted L. L. Sabaneev, one of the most zealous apologists for the first and an equally stubborn opponent and detractor of the second. Another critic, more moderate in his judgments, wrote in an article devoted to a comparative description of the three most prominent representatives of the Moscow musical school, Taneyev, Rachmaninov and Scriabin: the tone of modern, feverishly intense life. Both are the best hopes of modern Russia.”
For a long time, the view of Rachmaninoff as one of the closest heirs and successors of Tchaikovsky dominated. The influence of the author of The Queen of Spades undoubtedly played a significant role in the formation and development of his work, which is quite natural for a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, a student of A. S. Arensky and S. I. Taneyev. At the same time, he also perceived some of the features of the “Petersburg” school of composers: the excited lyricism of Tchaikovsky is combined in Rachmaninov with the harsh epic grandeur of Borodin, Mussorgsky’s deep penetration into the system of ancient Russian musical thinking and the poetic perception of Rimsky-Korsakov’s native nature. However, everything learned from teachers and predecessors was deeply rethought by the composer, obeying his strong creative will, and acquiring a new, completely independent individual character. The deeply original style of Rachmaninov has great internal integrity and organicity.
If we look for parallels to him in the Russian artistic culture of the turn of the century, then this is, first of all, the Chekhov-Bunin line in literature, the lyrical landscapes of Levitan, Nesterov, Ostroukhov in painting. These parallels have been repeatedly noted by various authors and have become almost stereotyped. It is known with what ardent love and respect Rakhmaninov treated the work and personality of Chekhov. Already in the later years of his life, reading the letters of the writer, he regretted that he had not met him more closely in his time. The composer was associated with Bunin for many years by mutual sympathy and common artistic views. They were brought together and related by a passionate love for their native Russian nature, for the signs of a simple life that is already leaving in the immediate vicinity of a person to the world around him, the poetic attitude of the world, colored by deep penetrating lyricism, the thirst for spiritual liberation and deliverance from the fetters that constrain the freedom of the human person.
The source of inspiration for Rachmaninov was a variety of impulses emanating from real life, the beauty of nature, images of literature and painting. “… I find,” he said, “that musical ideas are born in me with greater ease under the influence of certain extra-musical impressions.” But at the same time, Rachmaninov strove not so much for a direct reflection of certain phenomena of reality by means of music, for “painting in sounds”, but for the expression of his emotional reaction, feelings and experiences arising under the influence of various externally received impressions. In this sense, we can talk about him as one of the most striking and typical representatives of the poetic realism of the 900s, the main trend of which was successfully formulated by V. G. Korolenko: “We do not just reflect phenomena as they are and do not create an illusion out of whim non-existent world. We create or manifest a new relation of the human spirit to the surrounding world that is born in us.
One of the most characteristic features of Rachmaninov’s music, which attracts attention first of all when getting acquainted with it, is the most expressive melody. Among his contemporaries, he stands out for his ability to create widely and long unfolding melodies of great breathing, combining the beauty and plasticity of the drawing with bright and intense expression. Melodism, melodiousness is the main quality of Rachmaninov’s style, which largely determines the nature of the composer’s harmonic thinking and the texture of his works, saturated, as a rule, with independent voices, either moving to the fore, or disappearing into a dense dense sound fabric.
Rachmaninoff created his own very special type of melody, based on a combination of Tchaikovsky’s characteristic techniques – intensive dynamic melodic development with the method of variant transformations, carried out more smoothly and calmly. After a rapid take-off or a long intense ascent to the top, the melody, as it were, freezes at the achieved level, invariably returning to one long-sung sound, or slowly, with soaring ledges, returns to its original height. The reverse relationship is also possible, when a more or less long stay in one limited high-altitude zone is suddenly broken by the course of the melody for a wide interval, introducing a shade of sharp lyrical expression.
In such an interpenetration of dynamics and statics, L. A. Mazel sees one of the most characteristic features of Rachmaninov’s melody. Another researcher attaches a more general meaning to the ratio of these principles in Rachmaninov’s work, pointing to the alternation of moments of “braking” and “breakthrough” underlying many of his works. (V. P. Bobrovsky expresses a similar idea, noting that “the miracle of Rachmaninoff’s individuality lies in the unique organic unity of two oppositely directed tendencies and their synthesis inherent only in him” – an active aspiration and a tendency to “long stay on what has been achieved.”). A penchant for contemplative lyricism, prolonged immersion in some one state of mind, as if the composer wanted to stop the fleeting time, he combined with a huge, rushing outward energy, a thirst for active self-affirmation. Hence the strength and sharpness of contrasts in his music. He sought to bring every feeling, every state of mind to the extreme degree of expression.
In the freely unfolding lyrical melodies of Rachmaninov, with their long, uninterrupted breath, one often hears something akin to the “inescapable” breadth of the Russian lingering folk song. At the same time, however, the connection between Rachmaninov’s creativity and folk songwriting was of a very indirect nature. Only in rare, isolated cases did the composer resort to the use of genuine folk tunes; he did not strive for a direct similarity of his own melodies with folk ones. “In Rachmaninov,” the author of a special work on his melodics rightly notes, “rarely directly appears a connection with certain genres of folk art. Specifically, the genre often seems to dissolve in the general “feeling” of the folk and is not, as it was with his predecessors, the cementing beginning of the entire process of shaping and becoming a musical image. Repeatedly, attention has been drawn to such characteristic features of Rachmaninov’s melody, which bring it closer to the Russian folk song, such as smoothness of movement with a predominance of stepwise moves, diatonicism, an abundance of Phrygian turns, etc. Deeply and organically assimilated by the composer, these features become an inalienable property of his individual author’s style, acquiring a special expressive coloring peculiar only to him.
The other side of this style, as irresistibly impressive as the melodic richness of Rachmaninov’s music, is an unusually energetic, imperiously conquering and at the same time flexible, sometimes whimsical rhythm. Both the composer’s contemporaries and later researchers wrote a lot about this specifically Rachmaninoff rhythm, which involuntarily attracts the listener’s attention. Often it is the rhythm that determines the main tone of the music. A. V. Ossovsky noted in 1904 regarding the last movement of the Second Suite for Two Pianos that Rachmaninov in it “was not afraid to deepen the rhythmic interest of the Tarantella form to a restless and darkened soul, not alien to attacks of some kind of demonism at times.”
Rhythm appears in Rachmaninov as a carrier of an effective volitional principle that dynamizes the musical fabric and introduces a lyrical “flood of feelings” into the mainstream of a harmonious architectonically complete whole. B. V. Asafiev, comparing the role of the rhythmic principle in the works of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, wrote: “However, in the latter, the fundamental nature of his“ restless ”symphony manifested itself with particular force in the dramatic collision of the themes themselves. In Rachmaninov’s music, the very passionate in its creative integrity, the union of the lyric-contemplative warehouse of feeling with the strong-willed organizational warehouse of the composer-performer’s “I” turns out to be that “individual sphere” of personal contemplation, which was controlled by rhythm in the meaning of the volitional factor … “. The rhythmic pattern in Rachmaninov is always very clearly outlined, regardless of whether the rhythm is simple, even, like the heavy, measured beats of a large bell, or complex, intricately flowery. Favorite by the composer, especially in the works of the 1910s, rhythmic ostinato gives the rhythm not only formative, but in some cases also thematic significance.
In the field of harmony, Rachmaninoff did not go beyond the classical major-minor system in the form that it acquired in the work of European romantic composers, Tchaikovsky and representatives of the Mighty Handful. His music is always tonally defined and stable, but in using the means of classical-romantic tonal harmony, he was characterized by some characteristic features by which it is not difficult to establish the authorship of one or another composition. Among such special individual features of Rachmaninov’s harmonic language are, for example, the well-known slowness of functional movement, the tendency to stay in one key for a long time, and sometimes the weakening of gravity. Attention is drawn to the abundance of complex multi-tert formations, rows of non- and undecimal chords, often having more colorful, phonic than functional significance. The connection of this kind of complex harmonies is carried out mostly with the help of melodic connection. The dominance of the melodic-song element in Rachmaninov’s music determines the high degree of polyphonic saturation of its sound fabric: individual harmonic complexes constantly arise as a result of the free movement of more or less independent “singing” voices.
There is one favorite harmonic turn by Rachmaninoff, which he used so often, especially in the compositions of the early period, that he even received the name “Rachmaninov’s harmony”. This turnover is based on a reduced introductory seventh chord of a harmonic minor, usually used in the form of a terzkvartakkord with the replacement of II degree III and resolution into a tonic triad in the melodic third position.
The move to a reduced quart that arises in this case in the melodic voice evokes a poignant mournful feeling.
As one of the remarkable features of Rachmaninov’s music, a number of researchers and observers noted its predominant minor coloring. All four of his piano concertos, three symphonies, both piano sonatas, most of the etudes-pictures and many other compositions were written in minor. Even major often acquires a minor coloration due to decreasing alterations, tonal deviations and the widespread use of minor side steps. But few composers have achieved such a variety of nuances and degrees of expressive concentration in the use of the minor key. L. E. Gakkel’s remark that in the etudes-paintings op. 39 “given the widest range of minor colors of being, minor shades of life feeling” can be extended to a significant part of all Rachmaninoff’s work. Critics like Sabaneev, who harbored a prejudiced hostility towards Rachmaninov, called him “an intelligent whiner,” whose music reflects “the tragic helplessness of a man devoid of willpower.” Meanwhile, Rachmaninov’s dense “dark” minor often sounds courageous, protesting and full of tremendous volitional tension. And if mournful notes are caught by the ear, then this is the “noble sorrow” of the patriot artist, that “muffled groan about the native land”, which was heard by M. Gorky in some of Bunin’s works. Like this writer close to him in spirit, Rachmaninov, in the words of Gorky, “thought of Russia as a whole”, regretting her losses and experiencing anxiety for the fate of the future.
The creative image of Rachmaninov in its main features remained integral and stable throughout the composer’s half-century journey, without experiencing sharp fractures and changes. Aesthetic and stylistic principles, learned in his youth, he was faithful to the last years of his life. Nevertheless, we can observe a certain evolution in his work, which manifests itself not only in the growth of skill, enrichment of the sound palette, but also partially affects the figurative and expressive structure of music. On this path, three large, although unequal both in duration and in terms of their degree of productivity, periods are clearly outlined. They are delimited from each other by more or less lengthy temporary caesuras, bands of doubt, reflection and hesitation, when not a single completed work came out from the composer’s pen. The first period, which falls on the 90s of the XNUMXth century, can be called a time of creative development and maturation of talent, which went to assert its path through overcoming natural influences at an early age. The works of this period are often not yet independent enough, imperfect in form and texture. (Some of them (First Piano Concerto, Elegiac Trio, piano pieces: Melody, Serenade, Humoresque) were later revised by the composer and their texture was enriched and developed.), although in a number of their pages (the best moments of the youthful opera “Aleko”, the Elegiac Trio in memory of P. I. Tchaikovsky, the famous prelude in C-sharp minor, some of the musical moments and romances), the composer’s individuality has already been revealed with sufficient certainty.
An unexpected pause comes in 1897, after the unsuccessful performance of Rachmaninov’s First Symphony, a work in which the composer invested a lot of work and spiritual energy, which was misunderstood by most musicians and almost unanimously condemned on the pages of the press, even ridiculed by some of the critics. The failure of the symphony caused a deep mental trauma in Rachmaninoff; according to his own, later confession, he “was like a man who had a stroke and who for a long time lost both his head and hands.” The next three years were years of almost complete creative silence, but at the same time concentrated reflections, a critical reassessment of everything previously done. The result of this intense internal work of the composer on himself was an unusually intense and bright creative upsurge at the beginning of the new century.
During the first three or four years of the 23th century, Rakhmaninov created a number of works of various genres, remarkable for their deep poetry, freshness and immediacy of inspiration, in which the richness of creative imagination and the originality of the author’s “handwriting” are combined with high finished craftsmanship. Among them are the Second Piano Concerto, the Second Suite for two pianos, the sonata for cello and piano, the cantata “Spring”, Ten Preludes op. XNUMX, the opera “Francesca da Rimini”, some of the best examples of Rachmaninov’s vocal lyrics (“Lilac”, “Excerpt from A. Musset”), This series of works established Rachmaninoff’s position as one of the largest and most interesting Russian composers of our time, bringing him a wide recognition in the circles of the artistic intelligentsia and among the masses of listeners.
A relatively short period of time from 1901 to 1917 was the most fruitful in his work: over this decade and a half, most of the mature, independent in style of Rachmaninov’s works were written, which became an integral part of the national musical classics. Almost every year brought new opuses, the appearance of which became a notable event in musical life. With the incessant creative activity of Rachmaninoff, his work did not remain unchanged during this period: at the turn of the first two decades, symptoms of a brewing shift are noticeable in it. Without losing its general “generic” qualities, it becomes more severe in tone, disturbing moods intensify, while the direct outpouring of lyrical feeling seems to slow down, light transparent colors appear less often on the composer’s sound palette, the overall color of the music darkens and thickens. These changes are noticeable in the second series of piano preludes, op. 32, two cycles of etudes-paintings, and especially such monumental large compositions as “The Bells” and “All-Night Vigil”, which put forward deep, fundamental questions of human existence and the life purpose of a person.
The evolution experienced by Rachmaninov did not escape the attention of his contemporaries. One of the critics wrote about The Bells: “Rakhmaninov seems to have begun to look for new moods, a new manner of expressing his thoughts … You feel here the reborn new style of Rachmaninov, which has nothing in common with the style of Tchaikovsky.”
After 1917, a new break in the work of Rachmaninov begins, this time much longer than the previous one. Only after a whole decade did the composer return to composing music, having arranged three Russian folk songs for choir and orchestra and completed the Fourth Piano Concerto, begun on the eve of the First World War. During the 30s he wrote (except for a few concert transcriptions for piano) only four, however, significant in terms of the idea of major works.
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In an environment of complex, often contradictory searches, a sharp, intense struggle of directions, a breakdown of the usual forms of artistic consciousness that characterized the development of musical art in the first half of the XNUMXth century, Rachmaninoff remained faithful to the great classical traditions of Russian music from Glinka to Borodin, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and their closest, direct students and followers of Taneyev, Glazunov. But he did not limit himself to the role of the guardian of these traditions, but actively, creatively perceived them, asserting their living, inexhaustible power, the ability for further development and enrichment. A sensitive, impressionable artist, Rachmaninov, despite his adherence to the precepts of the classics, did not remain deaf to the calls of modernity. In his attitude to the new stylistic trends of the XNUMXth century, there was a moment not only of confrontation, but also of a certain interaction.
Over a period of half a century, Rachmaninov’s work has undergone a significant evolution, and the works of not only the 1930s, but also the 1910s differ significantly both in their figurative structure and in language, means of musical expression from the early, not yet completely independent opuses of the end of the previous one. centuries. In some of them, the composer comes into contact with impressionism, symbolism, neoclassicism, although in a deeply peculiar way, he individually perceives the elements of these trends. With all the changes and turns, Rachmaninov’s creative image remained internally very integral, retaining those basic, defining features that his music owes its popularity to the widest range of listeners: passionate, captivating lyricism, truthfulness and sincerity of expression, poetic vision of the world.
Yu. Come on
Rachmaninov went down in history not only as a composer and pianist, but also as an outstanding conductor of our time, although this side of his activity was not so long and intense.
Rachmaninov made his debut as a conductor in the autumn of 1897 at the Mamontov Private Opera in Moscow. Before that, he did not have to lead an orchestra and study conducting, but the brilliant talent of the musician helped Rachmaninoff quickly learn the secrets of mastery. Suffice it to recall that he barely managed to complete the first rehearsal: he did not know that the singers needed to indicate the introductions; and a few days later, Rachmaninov had already done his job perfectly, conducting Saint-Saens’ opera Samson and Delilah.
“The year of my stay at the Mamontov opera was of great importance to me,” he wrote. “There I acquired a genuine conductor’s technique, which later served me tremendously.” During the season of work as the second conductor of the theater, Rachmaninov conducted twenty-five performances of nine operas: “Samson and Delilah”, “Mermaid”, “Carmen”, “Orpheus” by Gluck, “Rogneda” by Serov, “Mignon” by Tom, “Askold’s Grave”, “The Enemy strength”, “May night”. The press immediately noted the clarity of his conductor’s style, naturalness, lack of posturing, an iron sense of rhythm transmitted to the performers, delicate taste and a wonderful sense of orchestral colors. With the acquisition of experience, these features of Rachmaninoff as a musician began to manifest themselves to the fullest, complemented by confidence and authority in working with soloists, choir and orchestra.
In the next few years, Rachmaninoff, occupied with composition and pianistic activity, conducted only occasionally. The heyday of his conducting talent falls on the period 1904-1915. For two seasons he has been working at the Bolshoi Theatre, where his interpretation of Russian operas enjoys particular success. Historical events in the life of the theater are called by critics the anniversary performance of Ivan Susanin, which he conducted in honor of the centenary of the birth of Glinka, and Tchaikovsky’s Week, during which Rachmaninov conducted The Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin, Oprichnik and ballets.
Later, Rachmaninov directed the performance of The Queen of Spades in St. Petersburg; reviewers agreed that it was he who was the first to comprehend and convey to the audience the entire tragic meaning of the opera. Among Rachmaninov’s creative successes at the Bolshoi Theater is also his production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Pan Voevoda and his own operas The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini.
On the symphony stage, Rachmaninov from the very first concerts proved himself to be a complete master of a huge scale. The epithet “brilliant” certainly accompanied reviews of his performances as a conductor. Most often, Rachmaninoff appeared at the conductor’s stand in concerts of the Moscow Philharmonic Society, as well as with the Siloti and Koussevitzky orchestras. In 1907-1913, he conducted a lot abroad – in the cities of France, Holland, USA, England, Germany.
Rachmaninov’s repertoire as a conductor was unusually multifaceted in those years. He was able to penetrate into the most diverse in style and character of the work. Naturally, Russian music was closest to him. He revived on the stage Borodin’s Bogatyr Symphony, almost forgotten by that time, contributed to the popularity of Lyadov’s miniatures, which he performed with exceptional brilliance. His interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s music (especially the 4th and 5th symphonies) was marked by extraordinary significance and depth; in the works of Rimsky-Korsakov, he was able to unfold the brightest gamut of colors for the audience, and in the symphonies of Borodin and Glazunov, he captivated the audience with epic breadth and dramatic integrity of interpretation.
One of the pinnacles of Rachmaninov’s conducting art was the interpretation of Mozart’s G-minor symphony. The critic Wolfing wrote: “What do many written and printed symphonies mean before Rachmaninov’s performance of Mozart’s g-moll symphony! … The Russian artistic genius for the second time transformed and displayed the artistic nature of the author of this symphony. We can talk not only about Pushkin’s Mozart, but also about Rachmaninov’s Mozart…”
Along with this, we find a lot of romantic music in Rachmaninov’s programs – for example, Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony, the symphonies of Mendelssohn and Franck, Weber’s Oberon overture and fragments from Wagner’s operas, Liszt’s poem and Grieg’s Lyric Suite… And next to it – a magnificent performance modern authors – symphonic poems by R. Strauss, works of the Impressionists: Debussy, Ravel, Roger-Ducasse … And of course, Rachmaninov was an unsurpassed interpreter of his own symphonic compositions. The well-known Soviet musicologist V. Yakovlev, who heard Rachmaninov more than once, recalls: “Not only the public and critics, experienced orchestra members, professors, artists recognized his leadership as the highest point in this art … His methods of work were reduced not so much to a show, but to separate remarks, mean explanations, often he sang or in one form or another explained what he had previously considered. Everyone who was present at his concerts remembers those broad, characteristic gestures of the whole hand, not coming only from the brush; sometimes these gestures of his were considered excessive by the orchestra members, but they were familiar to him and understood by them. There was no artificiality in movements, poses, no effect, no hand drawing. There was boundless passion, preceded by thought, analysis, understanding and insight into the style of the performer.
Let us add that Rachmaninoff the conductor was also an unsurpassed ensemble player; soloists in his concerts were such artists as Taneyev, Scriabin, Siloti, Hoffmann, Casals, and in opera performances Chaliapin, Nezhdanova, Sobinov …
After 1913, Rachmaninoff refused to perform works by other authors and conducted only his own compositions. Only in 1915 did he deviate from this rule by conducting a concert in memory of Scriabin. However, even later his reputation as a conductor was unusually high throughout the world. Suffice it to say that immediately after arriving in the United States in 1918, he was offered the leadership of the largest orchestras in the country – in Boston and Cincinnati. But at that time he could no longer devote time to conducting, forced to conduct intense concert activity as a pianist.
Only in the autumn of 1939, when a cycle of concerts from Rachmaninov’s works was arranged in New York, did the composer agree to conduct one of them. The Philadelphia Orchestra then performed the Third Symphony and the Bells. He repeated the same program in 1941 in Chicago, and a year later directed the performance of “Isle of the Dead” and “Symphonic Dances” in Egan Arbor. Critic O. Daune wrote: “Rakhmaninov proved that he has the same skill and control over performance, musicality and creative power, leading the orchestra, which he shows when playing the piano. The character and style of his playing, as well as his conducting, strikes with calmness and confidence. It is the same complete absence of ostentation, the same sense of dignity and obvious restraint, the same admirable imperious force. The recordings of The Island of the Dead, Vocalise and the Third Symphony made at that time have preserved for us evidence of the conducting art of the brilliant Russian musician.
L. Grigoriev, J. Platek