Crouched low. Hiding in a fire escape backstage with his fingers plugging his ears. This is how Sergei Rachmaninoff experienced the premiere of his Symphony No. 1. What should have been a triumphant night for Rachmaninoff turned into a nightmare which only worsened once the review appeared in the newspaper. "Diseased and perverted harmonizations." "Morbid atmosphere." Fit for the "inhabitants of Hell." These were the words used by St. Petersburg's leading music critic, César Cui, in his review of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 1. That very public flogging sent Rachmaninoff into a downward spiral.
We all need a little help from friends, and one of Sergei Rachmaninoff's most supportive friends was none other than the great Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky cheered for Rachmaninoff from his box seat at concerts and paired their works together in concert. But just as Rachmaninoff started to find his footing as a composer, Tchaikovsky died unexpectedly. Tchaikovsky had come to play the role of mentor and father figure to Rachmaninoff when he was a student. The elder composer's sudden death was an immeasurable blow to the talented but insecure Rachmaninoff.
Why do we love Rachmaninoff's music so much? Is it the romantic themes? The dark, brooding undercurrents? Whatever it is, it's hooked listeners for more than a century. Our new miniseries on The Great Composers opens with a look at Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor.
Composer Benjamin Park felt exhausted during the 2016 election. He remembers the nonstop political coverage and the growing tension within the United States. He decided to write music that embodied the disconnect -- and addressed the division. Ben used portions of the melody from "America the Beautiful" to write a piece about the harsh political divide in our country. He also took inspiration from the majestic landscape of Boulder. You'll hear a recording of Benjamin Parks's "For Purple Mountains" in the CPR Performance Studio -- played by musicians from the Flatirons Chamber Music Festival -- on this episode of Centennial Sounds from CPR Classical and Colorado Public Radio.
Plus: How 30 different pianists helped unveil the piece.
Starting at 2 p.m. Thursday, hear a full weekend of masterworks by history's greatest composers.
Hear a performance of the gorgeous "Entr'acte," as well as music by Robert Schumann.
An intimate look at the life and legacy of a singular musical figure, featuring insights from conductor Marin Alsop. Bernstein was born Aug. 25, 1918, and classical music lovers across the world are marking the 100th anniversary of his birth this year. It's a chance to rediscover his most indelible compositions, connect with his lesser-known pieces and appreciate what a singular musical figure he was.