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Estonia Pianos
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I remember in my music history class getting excited when the Russian composers came up and I thought I'd be getting to learn all about Rach, and then feeling hugely disappointed and cheated when the instructor spent about 5 minutes on him.

And then I realized it's exactly like you said - he didn't really push the envelope. But what he did create is damn gorgeous that I end up not caring about the innovation part. The first time I heard the 3rd movement of the Second Symphony I about died from how good it was.

Agreed - underrated.


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Originally Posted by UrLicht
I remember in my music history class getting excited when the Russian composers came up and I thought I'd be getting to learn all about Rach, and then feeling hugely disappointed and cheated when the instructor spent about 5 minutes on him.

It's also sad how quickly they skim over people like Scriabin, who essentially developed atonality independently of Schoenberg, and inspired an entire generation of Scriabin-ists.


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Yes, Scriabin certainly pushed the envelope... way, way out, into the realms of galactic madness....

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Originally Posted by Kuanpiano
Originally Posted by UrLicht
I remember in my music history class getting excited when the Russian composers came up and I thought I'd be getting to learn all about Rach, and then feeling hugely disappointed and cheated when the instructor spent about 5 minutes on him.

It's also sad how quickly they skim over people like Scriabin, who essentially developed atonality independently of Schoenberg, and inspired an entire generation of Scriabin-ists.


YES How could I forget about Scriabin? Definitely my favorite Russian. I wonder if his tonality being a product of mysticism rather than rational progression of the art was the turn off for my music history professor.


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Isn't it great that Scriabin and Rachmaninoff were classmates at conservatory. Two of my personal musical heroes in the same class. Was it something in the Russian water at the time!?
To me Scriabin surpasses Rachmaninoff, as he wrote romantic music that is (largely different but) just as good AND later ventured into realms way beyond Rachmaninoff.
I wonder to what degree they were friends? Maybe there was also competition between the two?

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Rachmaninov wins my heart any day. Whilst he was not the most harmonically innovative of composers, his way of using the traditional tonal language was nonetheless unique. One example I can think off the top of my head is the Romance for six hands. Harmonically still sounds refreshing to me. Rachmaninov's harmony is like a hidden alley of wonderful boutique shops tucked away in the midst of the high street district. Not so obviously spotted. It takes that little more effort to be able to discover. They're both from the same vicinity, yet they are different in terms of what they can offer.

As a pianist, Rachmaninov's playing is truly like no other. We are so fortunate to have recordings of the man himself performing. Every top melodic line is distinct, crisp and smudgeless from any dissonant overpedal. Truly a titan of the piano Rach was.


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I think his best works are not for piano: cantata 'The Bells', Nightvigil, 2nd symphony, symphonic dances, and, although his pianoworks reflect an allconsuming pianism, only a few works can hold their position with the competition: 1st sonata, some (and certainly not all) preludes and etudes, cello-sonata, songs, and just for my sake Francesca da Rimini.


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That 2nd concerto is pretty good smile

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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
I think his best works are not for piano: cantata 'The Bells', Nightvigil, 2nd symphony, symphonic dances, and, although his piano works reflect an all-consuming pianism, only a few works can hold their position with the competition: 1st sonata, some (and certainly not all) preludes and etudes, cello-sonata, songs, and just for my sake Francesca da Rimini.

Well I think you forgot the Paganini Rhapsody. The works you cite (all of which I know) deserve their place in the canon... next to the Rhapsody.

All things considered, I think the Rhapsody is Rachmaninov's supreme accomplishment. It is more consistently inspired than the 3rd symphony, it is more concise than the 2nd, and most definitely avoids the rather tiresome gestures of the last movement of the Symphonic Dances. (Pity, the first movement is so awesome.)





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Originally Posted by cefinow
I didn't really understand the criticism of Rachmaninov until I heard this rendition on the radio recently... but it is charming and extravagant! It was like having an ice cream sundae placed on the table in front of you, with whipped cream piled up to eye level. Ah... those hesitating, emphatic rolled chords are so dramatic and overdone-- he was having fun I'm sure. The intro makes me daydream about daring to be a little more flamboyant with my hymn intros on Sunday morning-- if I could keep a straight face-- how he overburdens that little motif at the start. (my fave etude-tableau is the wonderfully eery 39-7-- a totally different atmosphere from this)



Forgive me if I misread you, but surely you're not criticising Rachmaninoff, the composer, for this work? Are you taking into account the source? This is Fritz Kreisler's composition for violin and piano, "Liebesfreud," which is undoubtedly to be considered an embodiment of late Viennese schmaltz. Surely Rachmaninoff, when he transcribed this, had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, wouldn't you think, just having fun as he tried to out-schmaltz the "Schmaltz-king"?

There are, by the way, much better performances of this transcription than the one linked here. Try Ashkenazy's or Howard Shelley's.

Regards,


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Originally Posted by BruceD

Forgive me if I misread you, but surely you're not criticising Rachmaninoff, the composer, for this work? Are you taking into account the source? This is Fritz Kreisler's composition for violin and piano, "Liebesfreud," which is undoubtedly to be considered an embodiment of late Viennese schmaltz. Surely Rachmaninoff, when he transcribed this, had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, wouldn't you think, just having fun as he tried to out-schmaltz the "Schmaltz-king"?

There are, by the way, much better performances of this transcription than the one linked here. Try Ashkenazy's or Howard Shelley's.

Regards,


Yes, I thought all that was understood, but apparently not! Thank you for making the point better than I managed to do. It is a delectable example of Rachmaninov-schmaltz even (or especially) in caricature form. As that is the performance I heard, that's the one I posted.

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Many years ago I was a piano student as a young boy and continued lessons into the years of junior high school, but quit taking lessons and started learning on my own. Recently after retiring I started up piano lessons again, at Utah State University. I am nearly 70 years old. My favorite composer used to be Debussy but the more I play Rachmaninoff the more I fall in love with his music. His music brings more emotion to my soul than any other composer of classical music. His melancholy compositions are some of the most beautiful. I'm not sure why, but I truly feel what he must have felt as he composed this incredible music. I am moved to tears each time I play Rachmaninoff.


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I'm just a beginning player, but have been listening to Mr. R for a long time. I hear he didn't push the envelope, but yet he was totally unique. Every time I've heard a new Rachmaninoff piece, I've instantly known it was him, even without being told.


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This thread is ten years old. Not that that invalidates it nor the recent opinions expressed, but just saying ....

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A very great composer but not in my top ten for piano music. Probably somewhere in 11-15 which is still incredibly high considering the number of composers of piano music. I heard a recital of all 24 Rach Preludes and found it couldn't hold my interest thorugh out although the pianist was terrific. I've heard all Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert programs and they could hold my interest for the entire recital.

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Nice resurrected thread 😀

Last year I listened to his 1st and 4th piano concertos for the first time - my whole life I had never bothered to give them a chance because I assumed they weren’t as good as the 2nd and 3rd because they aren’t as famous.

Boy was I wrong! All four of his concerti, and the Paganini rhapsody, are right up there for me as some of my favourites.

I’ve never been a big fan of his solo piano music, but his concerti are brilliant imo.

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Rachmaninoff was my favorite by far when I first got into classical music, and he is still among one of my favorites...

As I've been listening more though, he is not my favorite anymore, I rarely listen to him as much as I listen to Scriabin, Feinberg, and Rubinstein. Maybe it is just the contrarian in me, but, I also have found composers Arensky, Blumenfield, Bortkiewicz, Taneyev, etc. to be maybe a bit more interesting (or maybe it is just because they are fresher to me, I don't know), I still think Rachmaninoff is very very great. I've been listening actually a lot more to his Etudes, when I first started listening to classical I couldn't really follow what he was putting down that well, but, now I get them a lot more. My favorites are op 39 no 5, and op 33 no 7 (e flat major aka 'the fair')...

Something about his preludes to me fall short, when I first listened to this music I thought they were the greatest thing, but, I prefer many other composers miniatures. His etudes are really great though like I said earlier, but, obviously his best work is either the All Night Vigil, or all 4 piano concertos. My order is Rach 3 played by Horowitz > Rach 2 > Rach 4 > Rach 3 > Rach 1. There is also a lot more obscure pieces that are very great like Polichinelle, Melody, and Four Pieces as miniatures, but, yeah, he is a great composer don't get me wrong... I've listened to him so much, so maybe that's why I do not like him as much as the other composers nowadays, but, he is definitely amazing.

Checking out this thread may make me revisit his music, as the more I improve, the more my ear improves, and I can pick up on different things...

As a pianist Rachmaninoff was great, to me he wasn't as great as other masters of the past, but he was definitely one of the best out there ever. His rhythm is his strong suit to me, and creativity, he definitely blows 98% of modern pianists out of the water... If only more played like him today...

Lastly, I will say according to Medtner he was the greatest Russian conductor, and most people forget about his conducting skills. I greatly appreciate Rach, for being a musician to the highest degree. A master pianist, composer, and conductor.


My gods are: Cortot, Horowitz, and Sofronitsky,

Started piano during COVID, hopefully I can play Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein, and Scriabin compositions one day...
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His music often strikes me as overly sentimental and a bit schmaltzy. He's the only composer whose creative genius blows me away without doing anything for me as a listener. It's a stylistic thing I suppose. I love the Vespers though... 😀

There are bits of the piano music I love, but it's always sections, and not whole works.

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I've never really cared for Rachmaninoff — it always seemed very over-the-top and not that musically interesting to my ear, but I've also never really dug deeper than surface-level. I've certainly heard his music a lot, both incidentally and sometimes by choice.

25 years ago I felt the same way about Liszt — and I still do for a lot of his pieces, but in playing some of his pieces I've found I really cherish a subset of his work, more than almost anything else for piano.

So I recognise that it's a superficial and uninformed opinion — but I've also never dug into it much because the pieces are hard and I have a long list of other composers about which I have equally superficial and uninformed opinions and I only like to go through the backlog a bit at a time. Brahms, for example, never really did much for me (excepting his cello and piano sonatas, and the first piano concerto) until three years ago when I started working on his first piano and violin sonata, and there is quite a treasure trove there. Someday soon I may even come to like his symphonies.

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I am somewhat neutral on Rachmaninoff. I know many here say it's very sentimental and emotional, but to my ears it almost feels disconnected from sentiment. It feels like the music is connected to emotion, but observes it neutrally rather than taking influence from it. Maybe that's just me.

I LOVE some of his works. Some of the preludes are stunning, and the sonatas and concertos are also very interesting. If I'm to play or listen to pieces from that time period, I'd much rather play/listen to Ravel (who I know is stylistically very different).

I think his main strengths are in his ability to create massive dramatic tragedies. It may not be to my liking all the time, but I have to admit that he can do that very well (although again, if I want drama I'd much sooner listen to a Beethoven sonata).

Unsure of his orchestral works though, perhaps those are different?


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