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Who is Rachmaninoff?

23 May 2019

One of the most prominent figures of classical music, Sergei Rachmaninoff represents both late Romantic Era and 20th century.

As musiconline , we wanted to take a closer look at this one of the greatest composers, conductors and musicians in general of all time.

Born in April 1st in 1873, Rachmaninoff has started his music career with piano training at the age of 4. He got accepted to Moscow State Conservatory and although he’s primarily known for his conducting skills, Rachmaninoff always kept his composition game strong.

Until his graduation, Rachmaninoff has composed countlessly many piano concertos and orchestral work. However, due to a harsh criticism he had to one of his symphonies, he got into depression and stayed away from music for 4 years.

After getting professional help, Rachmaninoff decided going back to music and composed the one of the best piano concertos, Piano Concerto No. 2. He dedicated this piece to his doctor and later moved on in his career as a conductor, in Bolshoy Theater for 16 years.


Early Music Education


Rachmaninoff used to be one of the four children of a wealthy family and he was a musician from his mother - in fact his grandfather.

Although the initial situation was great, due to financial problems, he had to relocate to St. Petersburg with his family and stepped into St. Petersburg Conservatory at the age of 10.

During his education, Rachmaninoff gained a lot of respect and attention with his live performances and musical skills, but there was one huge problem: his grades. Almost getting expelled, young Rachmaninoff switched to Moscow State Conservatory.

State Conservatory was a true challenge for him. He got introduced with a much tougher discipline and this actually worked. He nailed the music theory exam with the help of a friend and started earning money from music by teaching it.


Tchaikovsky was a true inspiration for Rachmaninoff. When he passed away in 1893, young Rachmaninoff’s passion for the music left its place to a sad and broken heart. Due to this, Rachmaninoff stopped composing new pieces and focused on giving piano lessons instead.

Once he was back to composing, his first symphony got critized by Cesar Cui in many cruelest ways and Rachmaninoff couldn’t take it - so he quit. For 4 years.

Who is Rachmaninoff?

During the first three years, he didn’t touch anything related to music. As he started therapy sessions, he got better and eventually stopped turning his back to music. He dedicated the concerto he composed in April 1901 to his doctor, which we all should be thankful to, Nikolai Dahl. After a short period of time, an offer for the conductor position came from Bolshoy Theater and Rachmaninoff accepted.

Just like Richard Strauss, Rachmaninoff was admiring Richard Wagner a lot, as well. Soon enough, he became also known for his admiration in discipline and hard work - and his pioneering method on modern orchestral order.


Leaving Russia

Although he was back, fully focused on music there was an issue that he couldn’t oversee: chaos of change in Russia. Life was getting more expensive and things needed to change. He took his family and moved to Dresden, Germany.

The city was much more alive compared to any city they previously lived in and Rachmaninoff family built a bond with it in a short period of time. However, lucrative offers to Rachmaninoff started raining from USA and he had to leave his family to earn more money. As he left for USA, his family returned back to Russia.

During his time away from the family, he gave countlessly many recitals, worked together with Boston and New York symphony orchestras and important conductors like Max Fiedler and Gustaf Mahler.

Returning back to Russia in 1910, was devastated by the situation his mother land. Chaos got even worse and he inevitably had to take his family and leave the country - forever. First moving to Finland, Rachmaninoff then started his Scandinavia tour to finally settle down in USA.

Last Years

Rachmaninoff was a true workaholic and never stopped music until his death. While he was on tour, he hospitalized due to high blood pressure and sclerosis in California. It is stated that he worked because he liked it after some point, since his financial condition was much better compared to his younger days.

However, no matter how one can be strong headed or determined, human body has physical limits. Limits such lead Rachmaninoff to quit his tour in 1942, move into hospital at the age of 70 and pass away in 1943. His life later on became an inspiration to many, even for a movie.

Made in 2007, Vetka Sireni tells the story of Rachmaninoff, the Russian legend.

Knowledge increases as it is shared!

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