P1172. SERGEI RACHMANINOFF: Gluck, Mozart, Chopin, Henselt, Moszkowski, Moussorgsky, Dohnányi, Kreisler & Rachmaninoff. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-256, recorded 1921-28. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Sergey Vasilyevich Rachmaninov, born in Semyonovo, Russia, on 1 April, 1873, is today remembered as one of the most formidable pianists of all time and the last truly great composer in the Russian Romantic tradition. Rachmaninov came from a music-loving, land-owning family; young Sergey's mother fostered the boy's innate talent by giving him his first piano lessons. After a decline in the family fortunes, the Rachmaninovs moved to St. Petersburg, where Sergey studied with Vladimir Delyansky at the Conservatory. As his star continued to rise, Sergey went to the Moscow Conservatory, where he received a sound musical training: piano lessons from the strict disciplinarian Nikolay Zverev and Alexander Siloti (Rachmaninov's cousin), counterpoint with Taneyev, and harmony with Arensky. During his time at the Conservatory, Rachmaninov boarded with Zverev, whose weekly musical Sundays provided the young musician the valuable opportunity to make important contacts and to hear a wide variety of music.
As Rachmaninov's conservatory studies continued, his burgeoning talent came into full flower; he received the personal encouragement of Tchaikovsky, and, a year after earning a degree in piano, took the Conservatory's gold medal in composition for his opera Aleko (1892). Early setbacks in his compositional career - particularly, the dismal reception of his Symphony #1 (1895) - led to an extended period of depression and self-doubt, which he overcame with the aid of hypnosis. With the resounding success of his Piano Concerto #2 (1900-1901), however, his lasting fame as a composer was assured. The first decade of the twentieth century proved a productive and happy one for Rachmaninov, who during that time produced such masterpieces as the Symphony #2 (1907), the tone poem Isle of the Dead (1907), and the Piano Concerto #3 (1909). On 12 May, 1902, the composer married his cousin, Natalya Satina.
By the end of the decade, Rachmaninov had embarked on his first American tour, which cemented his fame and popularity in the United States. He continued to make his home in Russia but left permanently following the Revolution in 1917; he thereafter lived in Switzerland and the United States between extensive European and American tours. While his tours included conducting engagements (he was twice offered, and twice refused, leadership of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), it was his astounding pianistic abilities which won him his greatest glory. Rachmaninov was possessed of a keyboard technique marked by precision, clarity, and a singular legato sense. Indeed, the pianist's hands became the stuff of legend. He had an enormous span - he could, with his left hand, play the chord C-E flat-G-C-G - and his playing had a characteristic power, which pianists have described as 'cosmic' and 'overwhelming'. He is, for example, credited with the uncanny ability to discern, and articulate profound, mysterious movements in a musical composition which usually remain undetected by the superficial perception of rhythmic structures.
Fortunately for posterity, Rachmaninov recorded much of his own music, including the four piano concerti and what is perhaps his most beloved work, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934). He became an American citizen a few weeks before his death in Beverly Hills, CA, on 28 March, 1943.”
- Michael Rodman, allmusic.com
“Rachmaninoff made his first tour of the United States as a pianist in 1909, an event for which he composed the Piano Concerto #3 as a ‘calling card’. This successful tour made him a popular figure in America. Nevertheless, he loathed the tour and declined offers of future American concerts. Many years later, in 1928, for Horowitz, it was a dream come true to meet Rachmaninoff, to whom he referred as ‘the musical God of my youth ... To think that this great man should accompany me in his own Third Concerto ... This was the most unforgettable impression of my life! This was my real début!’ For Rachmaninoff their Steinway basement meeting was equally unforgettable. The meeting between composer and interpreter would mark the beginning of a friendship that continued until Rachmaninoff's death. In fact, the two men were quite supportive of each other's careers and greatly admired each other's work. Horowitz stipulated to his manager that ‘If I am out of town when Rachmaninoff plays in New York, you must telegraph me, and you must let me come back, no matter where I am or what engagement I have’. Likewise Rachmaninoff was always present at Horowitz’s New York concerts and was ‘always the last to leave the hall’.
…we have been left in the recordings of Sergei Rachmaninoff a bequest that is a historically significant musical experience of unique power, beauty and logic."
– Gregor Benko, RACHMANINOFF ON RECORDS
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011