Sergei Rachmaninoff

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Probably the most revered of Rachmaninoff’s compositions is the Second Piano Concerto, a work whose existence is attributed to the auto-suggestion therapy of a Dr. Nicholas Dahl. Rachmaninoff’s need for the good doctor’s services came about in this manner: in 1897, the composer was in the throes of despair over the failure of his First Symphony at its premiere at St. Petersburg. Nothing, not even subsequent success in London in his unusual triple …

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…helps to correct the notion that Rachmaninoff in excelsis must be somber and maudlin. The slow movement, beginning with Beethoven "Moonlight"-Sonata-like triplets in the piano accompanying piquant conversations in the winds, is a multi-faceted canvas on which dazzling virtuosity and impassioned emotionalism are splashed in primary colors. After some cadenza excitement, the initial mood returns, followed by some grand gestures from the keyboard which is left to conclude the movement alone, in a whisper.