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Diving into Rachmaninoff’s compositional style

Diving into Rachmaninoff’s compositional style

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Historical Background

An understanding of Rachmaninoff’s works and revisions, habitus, and production of diasporic capital, must take into consideration his life, his personality and the setting in which his personality developed. Before proceeding to a detailed history, I will outline the essentials. His training occurred within the Russian conservatory system, introduced to Russia in the 1860s by Anton and Nicolai Rubinstein on the model of those in Western Europe.

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The Russian conservatories demanded exceptional technique and emphasized the Austro-German canon, Lisztian virtuosity, and Russian heroes like Tchaikovsky or the Russian National School. Rachmaninoff studied with Nikolai Zverev in Moscow, who instilled in him a strict regimen of practicing, before studying at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexander Siloti, his first cousin and a student of Nicolai Rubinstein and Franz Liszt. Rachmaninoff’s musical education coloured the virtuosic musical language found throughout his works in later life.

After emigrating from Russia in 1917, Rachmaninoff committed much of his time to a career as a concert virtuoso, establishing an international reputation and financial stability. Yet his performance career demanded industrious practicing and extensive touring, with only a few new compositions.

Rachmaninoff was born on April 1, 1873, at the Semyonovo estate in the Starorussky uyezd (district), in the Russian Empire.26 The second son of an aristocratic and educated family of six children, his parents were both amateur musicians. His father, Vasily Rachmaninov played the piano, and his mother, Lyubov Rachmaninova, taught him piano for a time. His paternal grandfather studied piano with John Field.

Among his siblings, his sister Elena attended Moscow Conservatory for voice, where she died tragically young.

Because his father failed to manage the estate, the Rachmaninoffs
were forced to sell their home at Oneg and move to Saint Petersburg. This financial and social catastrophe would prove to be a blessing in disguise for Rachmaninoff: his now lost family status would have required Sergei to follow the family tradition of military service. With that door closed, pursuing a career in music became a possibility for him.

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In 1882, on the advice of Rachmaninoff’s former piano teacher Anna Ornatskaya, he attended the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. There he received a general education in languages, history, geography, math, and Russian Orthodox doctrine, as well as music. His immaturity at the time led to academic failure in spring 1885. Rachmaninoff’s mother followed the advice of his elder cousin Alexander Siloti, professor at the Moscow Conservatory, to send Rachmaninoff to Siloti’s former teacher in Moscow, Nikolai Zverev.

Zverev ran a small music boarding school in his home, where Rachmaninoff studied under vigorous discipline starting in September 1885, and continued to board following his September 1886 entry into the Moscow Conservatory. In addition to lessons and practicing, he and his two peers at Zverev’s enjoyed exceptional opportunities to attend concerts, operas, and plays, and to perform weekly concerts that were attended by the leading musicians of Moscow and famous visitors.

Of these musicians, Anton Rubinstein made the most lasting impression on Rachmaninoff, and Rachmaninoff would make frequent references to Rubinstein for the rest of his life. During January and February 1886, Rachmaninoff attended Rubinstein’s seven-week “historical concerts” series, performed at Nobility Hall, Moscow Conservatory on Tuesday evening and repeated at the German Club on Wednesdays mornings (Grossman 2006: 10). Of Rubinstein’s performances, Rachmaninoff later observed that:

In this way, I heard the program of these historical concerts twice, and was able every Wednesday morning to re-examine my impressions of the previous evening… It was not so much his magnificent technique that held one spellbound than the profound, spiritually refined musicianship, that sounded from [each work] he played… Once he repeated the whole finale of the Chopin Sonata [B-flat minor], perhaps because he had not succeeded in the short crescendo at the close, as he would have wished (Riesemann 1934: 51).

It is important to bear in mind that Rachmaninoff wrote these words, which interpret Rubinstein as a musician that sought “profound” perfection through repeating and correction—performed revision—in the context of his exile.

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Rachmaninoff began attending the Moscow Conservatory in the fall of 1886, studying piano with Siloti, counterpoint with Taneyev, and harmony with Arensky, while still boarding with Zverev. He received the Great Gold Medal, Moscow Conservatory’s highest honour, upon his graduation in 1892.

Significantly for Rachmaninoff’s development as a composer, there existed a rivalry between the Saint Petersburg and Moscow Conservatories. Sabayenev notes that the “catechism of Chaykovski and Nikolay Rubinstein” dominated Moscow:

Moscovites hated and did not know Wagner, disliked the Russian National School in the persons of Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Mussorgski (especially the last), maintained a skeptical attitude toward Liszt and Berlioz, considered Brahms a nonentity, and worshipped Chaikovsky as the people of Saint Petersburg never worshipped him either before that or later (Sabayenev 1927: 104).

Although some of Sabayenev’s assertions may be overstated—Rachmaninoff worked with and came to admire Rimsky-Korsakov before his exile, and his teacher Siloti had himself studied with Liszt in Weimar—he does an excellent job of illustrating Moscow as the more traditional music centre, as well as less progressive than Saint Petersburg, which was dominated by the Russian National School of the “Mighty Handful.”

Rachmaninoff embarked on a career as a conductor and freelance composer, earning Tchaikovsky’s admiration for Aleko in an episode that is often recounted in biographies as a public endorsement and passing of the torch.

He composed and premiered the soon-to-be inescapable C-sharp minor prelude in Moscow, a work which would quickly become known worldwide through Siloti and expanded his reputation (though not earning him royalties). In November 1893, Tchaikovsky’s sudden death inspired Rachmaninoff to dedicate his Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor to him. Rachmaninoff’s budding career met a setback in 1897, when the panned premiere of his Symphony No. 1 in D minor began a three-year period of depression and professional inactivity (Bertensson and Leyda 2001: 73). He credited his recovery in early 1900 to hypno-treatment from Dr. Nikolai Dahl. His career resumed in 1901 with the successful premiere of one of his most enduringly popular works, the Piano Concerto No. 2.

The next decade and a half (1901-1917) saw Rachmaninoff marry (his cousin Natalia Satina, May 12, 1902), become a father (his daughters, Irina and Tatiana, were born on May 27, 1903 and July 4, 1907, respectively), and pursue a productive composing career. Rachmaninoff participated in a Russian nationalist music discourse that connected Russian folk music, Russian Orthodoxy, and national identity. His music was given broad historical import by his contemporaries, who saw in it ideas of progress, nationalism, and tradition within a discourse concerning Russia’s role in the world, musical and otherwise.

The premiere of Concerto No. 1 took place in 1892 at Moscow Conservatory. Rachmaninoff worked on the original Piano Sonata No. 2 during 1913 between Rome, Berlin, and his Russian country estate, Ivanovka (Norris 2001: 711). Rachmaninoff’s productivity may have been connected to the stability and purpose he experienced at the time through his role as husband and father, and the apparent stability of Russia and Europe (Martyn 1990: 24).

This period saw the composition of his cello sonata (1901), more than fifty piano works, including two sets of preludes (1903, 1910) and two sets of Études-tableaux (1911, 1917), two piano sonatas (1907, 1913), a Concerto No. 3 (1909), nearly fifty art songs, the Symphony No. 2, The Isle of the Dead (1909) and the choral symphony, The Bells (1913). The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and Russian Revolution of 1905 caused Rachmaninoff to settle temporarily in Dresden from November 9, 1906 to April 1909. Before re-settling in Russia, he spent the 1909-1910 concert season in the US, where he premiered his Concerto No. 3 with the New York Symphony Orchestra under Walter Damrosch. After a period back in Russia, Rachmaninoff became uneasy about events following the February 1917 Revolution.

The outbreak of the Great War brought a coalescence of cultural activity impacted by the war effort. But the sudden death of Scriabin in April 1915 came to be seen by members of the music community as a sing of the spiritual defeat of Russia itself (Mitchell 2011: 36). After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Civil War of 1918-1922, Rachmaninoff joined approximately 1.5 million Russians in fleeing Russia during the 1917 Revolutions and subsequent Civil War, with 20,000 joining Rachmaninoff in the United States (Zelensky 2009: 46).

Rachmaninoff came to be embraced by many as the definitive Russian composer and an epitome of “old Russia” for the white émigré community (Bertensson and Leyda 2001: 71). Among members of the Russian émigré community, Rachmaninoff symbolized the Russian nation in the sense of the word narod, which denotes the Russian folk in the sense of both “nation” and, more specifically, peasants (Mitchell 2011: 301).

When the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution, he decided to take the first opportunity to flee, which came in December with an invitation to concertize for a year in Denmark and Sweden. Starting with the 1918-1919 concert season, Rachmaninoff settled in the US and pursued a relentless performance career which continued until his death. It is clear in Rachmaninoff’s own writing, that before his exile he considered himself a composer first. As he wrote: “I wonder if I should… make up my mind to abandon composition altogether and become, instead, a professional pianist, or a conductor, or a farmer” (Bertensson and Leyda 2001: 179-180, my italics).

However, after his exile, he found that providing a stable income for his family required that he pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. In the remaining twenty-five years of his life, Rachmaninoff performed 1,643 concerts, of which more than 1,000 were in North America. During February 1943, Rachmaninoff felt too exhausted to continue his scheduled recitals that season. He was soon diagnosed with cancer and died at his home in Beverly Hills on March 28, 1943. Interestingly, Rachmaninoff did not seek U.S. citizenship until the year of his death. Until the advent of the Second World War, it seems Rachmaninoff hoped for the fall of the Soviet government in his lifetime and considered himself a permanent exile.

Rachmaninoff revised his Concerto No. 1, Sonata No. 2, and Concerto No. 4 in the context of his post-1917 exile. His connections with the white émigré community were personal as well as professional, as he donated a great deal of charitable assistance to Russian white émigrés and Soviet civilians throughout this period. Rachmaninoff revised Concerto No. 1 in 1917—the year of his emigration—and 1919, Sonata No. 2 in 1931, and Concerto No. 4 in 1926, 1928 and 1941. Russian émigré discourse acknowledged Rachmaninoff as essential to their group identity (Mitchell 2011: 308). In my analysis, I will demonstrate that it was also inscribed in his music.

Pianism and Compositional Style

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As a pianist as well as composer, Rachmaninoff gained a widespread reputation as faithful defender of the Romantic tradition. His piano style draws from Romantic composers such as Chopin and Liszt, featuring lyrical melodies, rich sonorities, and elaborate technical figures (Gillespie 1965: 276). Rachmaninoff’s music often features themes of longing and peace (Culshaw 1949: 48). These twin themes feature deeply in his own personality.

Mitchell describes extra-musical associations in Rachmaninoff’s music, such as the use of Russian folk elements, widespread discourse of his “Slavic” nature, and his popularity that “suggested an innate connection to the Russian narod” (Mitchell 2011: 301). Additionally, commentators generally recognize two aspects of Rachmaninoff’s musical style as particularly “Russian.”

These are the evocation of Orthodox Church bells and the melodic influence of Russian Orthodox chant music (Crociata 1973: 7). These elements also take meaning in the context of the Russian diaspora as a space of national memory. The Roman Catholic plainchant Dies Irae played a pervasive role in his works as well, found in more than twenty of his compositions (Culshaw 1949: 51).

Like many other composers, Rachmaninoff conceived of the Dies Irae as representing evil and composed using Dies Irae programmatically (Coolidge 1979: 203).

In addition to these two compositional techniques, it is arguable that the most recognizably “Russian” attribute of Rachmaninoff’s music came from the moods his music depicted, such as pessimism and gloom. The Russian word toska, a word that is important to understanding Rachmaninoff’s music, encompasses such ideas, and operates as a “favourite Russian mood.” Minor keys and modal melodies predominate in Rachmaninoff’s compositional style, a tendency which many of his contemporaries identified as “Russian” (Frolova-Walker 2007: 29-42). Vladimir Nabokov defines toska as:

A sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels, it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning… In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, lovesickness (Steinberg 2008: 819).

Before the composer’s exile in 1917, Rachmaninoff’s music was dismissed by many Russian music critics of the time as “salon music,” not to be classed among Russia’s greatest music. An influential music discourse in pre-1917 Russia directly criticized negative moods in Russian public life as degenerate and backward (Steinberg 2008: 820). Yet in the context of the Russian diaspora, Rachmaninoff’s combination of toska, pessimism, grief, and “traditionalism” combined with individual impressions of a shared Russian identity, greatly shaped by Rachmaninoff’s diaspora-influenced habitus. For members of the Russian diaspora as well as non-members, Rachmaninoff’s music came to represent an idealized Imperial Russia, or simply put, “old Russia.”

Rachmaninoff described himself as a “stranger in an alien world” at the end of his life. He resisted the changes of compositional trends and styles that emerged during his own lifetime, as well as the proponents of those changes. His Romantic personality self-consciously informed his compositions and views toward the composer-composition relationship:

I am not a composer who produces works to the formulas of preconceived theories. Music, I have always felt, should be the expression of a composer’s complex personality. A composer’s music should express the country of his birth… It should be the sum total of a composer’s experience (Piggott 1978: 56).

For Rachmaninoff, the expression of the composer in his or her works represented a fundamental imperative: “a composer’s music should express” these aspects of his own personality. When criticized for writing antiquated music, he scorned the anti-traditional spirit behind so-called “twentieth-century music,” saying:

The poet Heine once said, “What life takes away, music restores.” He would not be moved to say this if he could hear the music of today. For the most part it gives nothing. Music should bring relief. It should rehabilitate minds and souls, and modern music does not do this. If we are to have great music we must return to the fundamentals which made the music of the past great. Music cannot be just color and rhythm; it must reveal the emotions of the heart (Brower 1926: 8, my italics).

For Rachmaninoff, music’s true or authentic role involves revealing the composer’s heart, and for him personally, in conscious opposition to “modern music.” His works feature impassioned virtuosity, and despairing, introspective melodies (Norris 1980: 555). Rachmaninoff clearly intended for his music to reveal his own heart, which may be interpreted as his deepest social behaviours—his habitus, making Rachmaninoff’s work consciously intended to construct cultural capital, “old Russian” capital, and even diasporic capital.

Concert Performance Style

Rachmaninoff’s repertoire pointed to his own character as a Moscow Conservatory-trained musician. Rachmaninoff’s repertoire included his own works first and foremost, but also was characterized by the canonic Romantic composers: Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt (Kammerer 1966: 158). He also included works by Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky. His favourite modern compositions were the early works of Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc, as well as his Russian colleagues Scriabin and Medtner.

Rachmaninoff’s sister-in-law and cousin, Sophia Satina, described Rachmaninoff’s daily practice regime as consistently four to six hours a day, starting with one hour of scales and individual finger exercises (Norris 1980: 555). Discussing how to prepare a work for performance, Rachmaninoff said: “You must take the work apart, peer into ever corner, before you can assemble the whole (Norris 1980: 555).

Central to Rachmaninoff’s views on preparing a performance, he would determine the climax “point” for each piece. Following, he would determine the structure logically on either side of the “culminating point.” He explained to Marietta Shaginian:

Maybe at the end or in the middle, it may be loud or soft; but the performer must know how to approach it with absolute calculation, absolute precision, because, if it slips by, then the whole construction crumbles, and the piece becomes disjointed and scrappy and does not convey to the listener what must be conveyed (Crociata 1973: 6).

In this letter, Rachmaninoff indicates that if the performer fails to approach the climax of the work properly, and by extension the climax itself and its resolution, then the work collapses, and fails to communicate its message. In other words, performance may represent to Rachmaninoff a compositional realization of the work—with performance and composition as two sides of the same coin.

The composer’s personality, purpose, and heart characterized every aspect of the piece. Further, the attention to both individual details and the overall story surrounding the “culminating point” indicates a view that he himself—his musical style, personality, national identity, and experience—must permeate the piece. The critic Rafael Kammerer linked Rachmaninoff’s performance style to that of Anton Rubinstein, specifically in phrasing, accentuations, and

emphasizing inner melodies. As already discussed, Rubinstein’s influence on Rachmaninoff’s playing dated back to attending Rubinstein’s “historical recitals” during Rachmaninoff’s Zverev period and continued throughout his life (Norris 1980: 555). Rubinstein’s influence on Rachmaninoff’s technique indicates a further link of himself to “old Russia” when he found himself in exile (Bertensson and Leyda 2001: 294).

Virtuosity

In his own lifetime, critics generally praised Rachmaninoff’s pianistic technique and virtuosity. John Gillespie described Rachmaninoff as “a spectacular pianist equal to any of the leading twentieth-century virtuosos” (Crociata 1973: 8). Looking back on his post-exile career in 1933, Rachmaninoff himself wrote:

For the past fifteen seasons I have played about 750 concerts. Before I became a person of jubilees I played 70 or 80 concerts a year. But as I approach the age of jubilees, I’ve had to scale down a little. Concerts require very serious preparation. I work with pleasure on the compositions of other composers. When I work on my own—it is more difficult. Only a month, a month and a half, is left for rest
(Gillespie 1965: 276).

Rachmaninoff here points to his first fifteen seasons as a Russian exile involving prodigious amounts of concerts, in which he displayed his proficiency as a pianist. Interestingly, he describes working on his own compositions as more difficult. This indicates that exile changed Rachmaninoff’s relationship with his own works, in a way that did not affect his relationship with other composers’ works.

It could be possible to read into this letter that Rachmaninoff grew to dislike his own works and to prefer the works of others during his post-exile period. However, several correspondences included in the following section suggest that the difficulty Rachmaninoff felt towards his own works lay in his feelings of yearning (toska) for Russia.

Exile

Rachmaninoff’s departure from Bolshevik Russia in December 1917 and settlement in the US in November 1918 meant for him statelessness, a new career, and the need to adapt his habitus to the new structures governing his life. Rachmaninoff followed the advice of his Russian colleague, Josef Hoffmann, in pursuing a performance career. This required Rachmaninoff to acquire a concert repertoire comparable to those of other piano virtuosos of the time (Piggott 1978: 83).

As a pianist, he built an eminent reputation across the US and Western Europe, working hard to build up a repertoire that he continued to expand every summer.

Although his antipathy to the creators and enthusiasts of “modern music” produced some critical opposition to Rachmaninoff, he also enjoyed much in the way of critical affirmation. The words of Hofmann and Medtner both applaud Rachmaninoff in ways that point to the composer’s personal significance as expressed in his music. On Rachmaninoff’s music, Hofmann exclaimed:

Rachmaninoff! The man whose art is as pure gold; the sincere artist, equally admired by musicians and the public. He is indeed simple, unassuming, truthful, generous (Bertensson and Leyda 2001: 295).

Hofmann’s words, such as referring to Rachmaninoff’s music as pure gold, and his performance as truthful and generous, do more than describe Rachmaninoff’s music—they assert and build cultural capital, both Rachmaninoff’s as the composer worth so celebrating, and himself as a knowing appreciator of Rachmaninoff’s music. Medtner also expressed enthusiastic respect, expressing what Rachmaninoff’s music signified to him:

Rachmaninoff strikes us chiefly by the spiritualization of sound, the bringing to life of the elements of music. The simplest scale, the simplest cadence—in short, any formula—when “recited” by his fingers acquires its primary meaning. We are struck not by his memory, not by his fingers, which do not allow a single detail in the whole to slip by, but just by the whole; by the inspired images that he reconstructs before us. His gigantic technique, his virtuosity, serve merely for the clarification of these images. His rhythms, the movement of sounds, betray the same expressive declamation and relief as each separate sound of his touch… His rhythm, like his sound, is always included in his musical soul—it is, as it were, the beating of his living pulse (Brower 1926: 1).

Like Hofmann, Medtner in this quotation contributes to the cultural capital invested in Rachmaninoff’s music. Medtner’s discourse also points to Rachmaninoff’s formidable technique as “a means to an end”: namely, inspired images, “reconstructed” through music. These images, Medtner leaves unnamed and infinitely personal to the listener. Yet he also connects the sounds and rhythms of Rachmaninoff’s music to the composer’s personality.

The 1926 book Modern Masters of the Keyboard provides an interesting description of a Rachmaninoff performance:

His tall figure bends over the keyboard, as he sits a few seconds in utter stillness before beginning. Then his large hands, with their long, shapely fingers, find the desired keys with no perceptible effort, and weave for the listener enchanting pictures, now bright, now sad and filled with longing (Brower 1926, Quoted in Crociata 1973: 6).

Clearly the pictures suggested to listeners by Rachmaninoff’s music, whatever they may be, involve longing. The first and most obvious possibility may be “old Russia.” Rachmaninoff’s correspondence indicates that he also felt longing for the absence of his own composing, for him inextricably joined to “old Russia.” As his concert tours began to provide him with a prosperous income, and enabled further composition, he found it difficult to adapt his compositional habitus to his new circumstances and social structures (Norris 2001: 53). He wrote to his friend Alfred Swan:

With all my travels and the absence of a permanent abode, I really have no time to compose, and, when I now sit down to write, it does not come to me very easily. Not as in former years (Piggott 1978: 84).

Due to his concert tours, rigorous practicing, travelling, and performing, Rachmaninoff certainly had limited time to work on composition. Yet even during the summer periods that proved compositionally productive, nostalgia changed his feelings toward composition. When asked if concertizing affected his composing, he wrote:

Yes, very much. I never could do two things at the same time. I either played only or conducted only, or composed only. Now there’s no opportunity to think of composition. And somehow, since leaving Russia, I don’t feel like composing. Change of air, perhaps. Forever traveling, working. Instead of hunting three hares at once, I’m sticking to one. No. I do not regret it. I love to play. I have a powerful craving for the concert platform. When there are no concerts to give I rest poorly (Piggott 1978: 84, my italics).

Rachmaninoff seems to be saying that, more than having no opportunity to compose since his exile, his distance from Russia diminished his desire to compose. Interestingly, he mentions a craving for the concert platform instead. Keeping in mind Bourdieu’s theorizing of the habitus needing to adapt to abrupt changes of circumstances, it seems that for Rachmaninoff composing became burdened with the homeland lost in diaspora. At the same time, performing allowed expression of that homeland in a more accessibly self-consoling way.

In concerts and the public, Rachmaninoff presented a severe and sombre personality. A critic in Recording Review described a Rachmaninoff performance:

He is somewhat dour—an image that was accentuated by his gaunt frame, chiseled face and cropped hair. With no outward show he would address himself to the works of the masters he so revered. Only when he had reached the end of his program would the tension ease, and he would smile and “play to the galleries.” Invariably, his last encore would be his Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, which had become synonymous with the name “Rachmaninoff” (Swan and Swan 1944: 174).

Professionally, every aspect of his performance style was characterized by discipline (Norris 1980: 555). His technique displayed rhythmic control, a refined legato, and independence in complex textures (Norris 1980: 555). In contrast with his performance style, his friends and family recorded Rachmaninoff’s personality as typically affectionate and kind (Brower 1926: 2). Yet the sombre aspects of his performance style are present in the post-exile works and revisions he produced.

Post-Exile Compositions

In addition to the revisions that Rachmaninoff completed of the three works under consideration in this monograph, he produced just six new works over a period of twenty-five years (December 1917-March 1943). These included Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 40 (1926), Three Russian Songs, Op. 41 (1926), Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 (1931), Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (1934), Symphony No. 3, Op. 44 (1936), and Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940). The piano works, Op. 40, 42, and 43, feature a condensed piano style, described by some as neo-classical (Crociata 1973: 6).

As an émigré, all of Rachmaninoff’s remaining major works would be composed during annual summer breaks, including Concerto No. 4 and Three Russian Songs in Dresden, the Variations on a Theme of Corelli outside Paris, the Symphony No. 3 in Villa Senar, and the Symphonic Dances in Huntington, Long Island in the context of the Second World War.

Rachmaninoff offered few detailed clues as to the extra-musical significance behind his compositions in public. Yet throughout his life and especially upon becoming a white émigré, he consistently described the uniquely Russian essence of all his works. In describing Stravinsky’s European career, Richard Taruskin refers to the tried and tested Russian “ploy of parading Self as Other” and of “a show of national character, predicated on its reception as exoticism, [that] was the calculated basis of its international appeal” (Taruskin 1997: 107).

Yet Rachmaninoff’s music, rather than exhibiting exoticism, served as a medium for a very personal navigation between creative originality and a commitment to the past. Further, these two aspects allow Rachmaninoff’s revised works to serve as a forum for remembering, performing, and reconstructing “old Russia,” however removed from the individual listener’s experience.

Next: Specific case studies.