It’s hot and damp outside. As much as I like the sun, the heat today is oppressive. Inside it is fresh, calm, and I indulge a peaceful moment with nothing to do and nowhere to run to. What a relief! Since I work part-time, I am busy with all kinds of unpleasant household chores and I have come to deeply appreciate such moments. And as it happens, during my short break I enjoy Sergei Rachmaninov’s Preludes. What a delight! Perfectly suited to re-energize me with that.
It has become a tradition by now: At my birthday I offer myself a birthday post about a piece I cannot get enough of plus a picture, linked to nice souvenirs, and of course a relaxed listening session with the music that birthday post is about. I shall celebrate today with Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor.
The recording by the Royal Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Howard Shelley is one of the oldest CDs in my collection. And Rachmaninov’s first piano concerto is a cherished one. It’s so easy-going, light-hearted, jaunty – invariably it launches me into positive thinking.
Dark, sombre – an old man. A light arpeggio theme with a solo flute – a young woman. Two characters from a poem written by the Russian Romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov.
A golden cloud slept for her pleasure
All night on the breast of the gaunt rock.
“I am perpetually dissatisfied with myself. Nothing but continuous torture.” Such goes the composer’s lament, and no, it’s not Pyotr Tchaikovsky who, admittedly, was very gifted in terms of self-pity. Another Russian composer, Sergei Rachmaninov, wrote these lines to his friend Nikita Morozov in March 1909. He was about to sail to America for a concert tour and he was struggling with a new piece for orchestra and piano that would become by September 1909 Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. He was 36 years old and definitely one of the rising composers of his time. Despite all misgivings.