Clickety clack. That’s all Sergei Rachmaninoff heard as he practiced his new Piano Concerto No. 3 in advance of his big American tour, during which he would debut the piece. That’s because he finished the piece just before departing for the U.S. and didn't leave himself time to practice. He had to make do with practicing on a silent keyboard on the ship. When you hear how fiendishly difficult the piece is, it makes this story even more amazing.
A collection of exclusive holiday music from some of Colorado's finest classical musicians.
Sergei Rachmaninoff just wasn't hungry -- literally and figuratively. So, after the success of his Piano Concerto No. 2, he took the less obvious route for a composer and dedicated himself to conducting and teaching. He just wasn't craving that next big hit. It was rising political unrest that forced him into composing again.
Sergei Rachmaninoff finds himself in a funk. It’s been three years since the disastrous premiere of his Symphony No. 1 and the composer has barely written a note since then. His confidence is crushed. Self-doubt has crippled him. And it looks like his muse has left him. Enter the family intervention. In what becomes a persistent theme in Rachmaninoff’s life, his family insists that it’s time to get off the couch and back to composing. They send him to a doctor who has been experimenting with a new type of remedy: hypnotherapy. After months of positive talk therapy, and his family rooting for him, Sergei Rachmaninoff pulls off the greatest comeback story in classical music with his beloved Piano Concerto No. 2.
Jordan Pal creates amazing sounds inspired by nature. You have to hear it to believe it.
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.