‹‹ The Great Composers

Sergei Rachmaninoff, Chapter 5: The Reluctant Hit Maker

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Photo: Rachmaninoff at Steinway
Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff just wasn't hungry -- literally and figuratively. His extended family was well off so he wasn't starving for food. Nor did he seem too eager to prove himself as a composer.

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.

Rachmaninoff decided his family would be safer in Germany after unarmed protesters were killed outside the Tsar's palace in St. Petersburg in what's known as "Bloody Sunday." Money suddenly became an issue for the ex-pat Rachmaninoff and he decided to face his demons and try his hand at writing a symphony again.

The disastrous premiere of his First Symphony almost caused Rachmaninoff to never compose again. But this time, he found his formula of success.

Host Karla Walker and conductor and lecturer Scott O'Neil walk us through the uber romantic Symphony No. 2 and how it helped Rachmaninoff find his confidence again.

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Featured Music From 'The Great Composers: Rachmaninoff'

Check out this Spotify playlist and explore more than five hours of music featured in this series.