Rachmaninoff's Complete Songs: A Companion with Texts and Translations

Rachmaninoff's Complete Songs: A Companion with Texts and Translations

Rachmaninoff's Complete Songs: A Companion with Texts and Translations

Rachmaninoff's Complete Songs: A Companion with Texts and Translations

Synopsis

Sergei Rachmaninoff- the last great Russian romantic and arguably the finest pianist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries- wrote 83 songs, which are performed and beloved throughout the world. Like German Lieder and French mélodies, the songs were composed for one singer, accompanied by a piano. In this complete collection, Richard D. Sylvester provides English translations of the songs, along with accurate transliterations of the original texts and detailed commentary. Since Rachmaninoff viewed these "romances" primarily as performances and painstakingly annotated the scores, this volume will be especially valuable for students, scholars, and practitioners of voice and piano.

Excerpt

The Moscow public first learned of a young composer named Sergei Rachmaninoff in the spring of 1893, when the Bolshoi Theater announced production of his one-act opera Aleko. He was known before that to insiders at the Moscow Conservatory, where he performed some of his early piano works. An opera, however, based on Alexander Pushkin’s brilliant narrative poem Tsygany (The Gypsies, 1824), was an important musical event. By the time the young composer reached his twentieth birthday, on 2 April 1893, rehearsals were already under way.

Aleko was never imagined as a career-launching move, but that is what it turned out to be. It was composed in 1892 as a final diploma project at the Conservatory. The libretto, patchily contrived for pedagogical purposes by the Moscow critic and dramaturge Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, invited comparison, in its verismo plot of jealousy and murderous revenge, with Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, a recent hit at the Bolshoi (for details, see Richard Taruskin: “Aleko,” The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 1992). Given a deadline of one month to write the opera, Rachmaninoff (the only one of the three seniors in the class to finish the job on time) submitted the score in less than three weeks (for exact dates, see T/N, 178-80). The result was quite astonishing: not only did it make good use of specifically “Russian” and “oriental” musical strategies worked out by Glinka, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, and others, but it contained choral and solo numbers with original, well-crafted melodies. The performance at the Bolshoi Theater was given on 27 April 1893, with lead singers and the Bolshoi’s principal conductor, Ippolit Altani. Some of the arias were sung and later recorded by famous singers, with Feodor Chaliapin first and foremost (Chaliapin recorded Aleko’s cavatina in 1923 in Hayes and 1930 in London). In our own day, baritone Mariusz Kwiecien included it on his compact disc “Slavic Heroes” (2011). The opera brought Rachmaninoff early fame: Tchaikovsky found him a publisher, and mentored him during rehearsals; the Kiev Opera invited the composer to conduct it there, which he did in October 1893; and in St. Petersburg, Rimsky-Korsakov himself conducted the “Dance of the Gypsy Girls” at a Russian Symphony concert in December 1894. In a special performance in St. Petersburg on the centenary of Pushkin’s birth in May 1899, Chaliapin sang the lead part, with “true suffering in his sobs at the end,” according to the composer (LN 1, 290).

Beyond Russia, audiences first heard music by Rachmaninoff in December 1893, when his cousin, the celebrated pianist Alexander Siloti, performed the First Piano Concerto in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt. The German reviewers heard echoes of Chopin, Liszt, and Grieg in the piano writing but failed to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.