Part 1 here.
After years of hard work, in 1892 Sergei graduated with a gold medal. He was only 19 years old!
gold medal was for his opera Aleko, which was first performed in 1893.
It was admired by a great many people, including Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
(Tchaikovsky even asked if Sergei's opera could be performed with one of
Tchaikovsky's, which excited Sergei very much.) But Sergei's First Symphony was not so well received. In fact, nobody liked it. Sergei was
so upset that he stopped composing for a while. He didn't write any more music for
almost three years.
did start writing again, though, and before World War I started, he had
written three concertos, two more symphonies, a symphonic poem, many
songs, and lots of piano music. The piano music was written partly for
his own amazing hands, so the music is very difficult and full of wide
1902, Sergei finally married his fiancée and cousin Natalia Satina. In
the beginning, Sergei was in love with her younger sister, Vera,
but Vera and Natalia's mother would have none of that. So Sergei wrote
back and forth with Natalia. By the time of their wedding, they had been
engaged for three years.
1917, the Russian Revolution broke out. The Rachmaninoff family were
aristocrats, and so the forty-four-year-old Sergei moved to Switzerland
with his family (his wife and two daughters) and decided to focus more
on the piano. Many people in the United States offered him work as a
composer, and although he turned them down, he finally decided that
moving to America would solve some of his financial problems. In 1935,
he moved to the United States. He kept composing during this time, even
though he was very sad to leave Russia. He and his family tried to make
their house in America like their house in Russia.
became ill during a concert tour in late 1942 and was diagnosed with
melanoma, a type of skin cancer (The doctors told his family, but not
him). Soon after, he and his wife became American citizens, just two
months before he died. He died in Beverly Hills, California, four days
before his 70th birthday.
wrote a lot of music, including: Piano Concerto No. 4; the Variations on a Theme by Corelli, for solo piano; the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, for piano and orchestra; the Third Symphony; and the Symphonic Dances, as well as pieces like Vocalise, Variations on a Theme of
Chopin, and The Isle of the Dead. Sergei Rachmaninoff has been somewhat
forgotten, but his music is still popular. He was perhaps the best
pianist of his lifetime. As part of his daily warm-up exercises, Sergei
would play the difficult Étude in A flat, Op. 1, No. 2, by Paul de
Schlozer. When performing, he would go up on stage, sit down at the
piano, and wait for the audience to be quiet. When he played, it was
perfect: he never made a mistake, and his playing could be heard in the
back row of the music hall. And he remembered things - if he heard a
piece of music just once, he could remember it for a long time, note by
note. He could sit down the next day, or six months later, or ten years
later, and play it on the piano. He was dedicated to music - he once
said, "That is the most important thing for me in my interpretations,
color. So you make music live. Without color it is dead."
Guest Writer: Rachel Holbrook