Piano Concerto No. 2 (Rachmaninoff)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, is a concerto for piano and orchestra composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901.[1] The second and third movements were first performed with the composer as soloist on 2 December 1900.[2] The complete work was premiered, again with the composer as soloist, on 9 November 1901,[2] with his cousin Alexander Siloti conducting.

This piece is one of Rachmaninoff's most enduringly popular pieces,[3] and established his fame as a concerto composer.[4]

Rachmaninoff in the early 1900s

Background[edit]

At its 1897 premiere, Rachmaninoff's first symphony, though now considered a significant achievement, was derided by contemporary critics.[5] Compounded by problems in his personal life, Rachmaninoff fell into a depression that lasted for several years. His second piano concerto confirmed his recovery from clinical depression and writer's block, cured by courses of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy and helped by support from his family and friends. The concerto was dedicated to Nikolai Dahl, the physician who had done much to restore Rachmaninoff's self-confidence.[5]

Composition[edit]

The work is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B (I mov.) and A (II & III mov.), 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in B, 3 trombones (2 tenor, 1 bass), tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, solo piano, and strings. It is written in three-movement concerto form.

Moderato: C minor[6][edit]

First eight bars of the concerto
Main theme first played by the two violin sections, viola section and first clarinet

The opening movement begins with a series of chromatic bell-like tollings on the piano that build tension, eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme. This leads into the key and main theme of the piece, C Minor. In this first section, the orchestra carries the Russian-character melody, while the piano provides an accompanimental role, consisting of rapid oscillating arpeggios between both hands. After the statement of the long first theme, a quick and virtuosic "piu mosso" pianistic figuration transition leads into the lyrical second theme in E flat major, the relative key. The second theme is first stated by the solo piano, with light accompaniment coming from the upper wind instruments. A transition which follows the chromatic scale eventually lead to the final reinstatement of the second theme, this time with the full orchestra at a piano dynamic. The exposition ends with an agitated closing section with scaling arpeggios on the E flat major scale in both hands.

The agitated and unstable development borrows motives from both themes, changing keys very often and giving the melody to different instruments while a new musical idea is slowly formed. The sounds here, while focused on a particular tonality, has ideas of chromaticism. Two sequences of pianistic figurations lead to a placid, orchestral reinstatement of the first theme in the dominant 7th key of G. The development furthers with motifs from the previous themes, climaxing towards a B flat major "piu vivo" section. A triplet arpeggio section leads into the accelerando section, with the accompanying piano playing chords in both hands, and the string section providing the melody reminiscent of the second theme. The piece reaches a climax with the piano playing dissonant fortississimo (fff) chords, and with the horns and trumpets providing the syncopated melody.

While the orchestra restates the first theme, the piano, that in the other occasion had an accompaniment role, now plays the march-like theme that had been halfly presented in the development, thus making a considerable readjustment in the exposition, as the main theme, the arpeggios in the piano serve as an accompaniment. This is followed by a piano-solo which continues the first theme and leads into a descending chromatic passage to a pianississimo A flat major chord. Then the second theme is heard played with a horn solo. The entrance of the piano reverts the key back into C minor, with triplet passages played over a mysterious theme played by the orchestra. Briefly, the piece transitions to a C Major glissando in the piano, and is placid until drawn into the agitated closing section in which the movement ends in a C minor fortissimo.

Adagio sostenuto – Più animato – Tempo I: C minor → E major[edit]

The second movement opens with a series of slow chords in the strings which modulate from the C minor of the previous movement to the E major of this movement.

At the beginning of the A section, the piano enters, playing a simple arpeggiated figure. This opening piano figure was composed in 1891 as the opening of the Romance from Two Pieces For Six Hands. The main theme is initially introduced by the flute, before being developed by an extensive clarinet solo. The motif is passed between the piano and then the strings.

Then the B section is heard. It builds up to a short climax centred on the piano, which leads to cadenza for piano.

The original theme is repeated, and the music appears to die away, finishing with just the soloist in E major.

Allegro scherzando: E major → C minor → C major[edit]

The last movement opens with a short orchestral introduction that modulates from E (the key of the previous movement) to C minor, before a piano solo leads to the statement of the agitated first theme. After the original fast tempo and musical drama ends, a short transition from the piano solo leads to the second theme lyrical theme in B flat major is introduced by the oboe and violas. This theme maintains the motif of the first movement's second theme. The exposition ends with a suspenseful closing section in B-flat major.

After that an extended and energetic development section is heard. The development is based on the first theme of the exposition. It maintains a very improvisational quality, as instruments take turns playing the stormy motifs.

In the recapitulation, the first theme is truncated to only 8 bars on the tutti, because it was widely used in the development section. After the transition, the recapitulation's 2nd theme appears, this time in D flat major, half above the tonic. However, after the ominous closing section ends it then builds up into a triumphant climax in C major from the beginning of the coda. The movement ends very triumphantly in the tonic major with the same four note rhythm ending the Third Concerto in D minor.

Derivative works[edit]

The second theme of Allegro scherzando provides the basis for Frank Sinatra's 1945 "Full Moon and Empty Arms".[7] And two songs recorded by Sinatra also have roots in the first movement of the concerto: "I Think of You" and "Ever and Forever".[8]

The Adagio sostenuto theme appears in Eric Carmen's 1975 ballad "All by Myself". Carmen first composed the song's interlude, then took the bridge from Rachmaninoff and the chorus from his own "Let's Pretend". Carmen explained that Rachmaninoff was his "favorite music".[9]

The Moderato theme appears in Muse's 2001 song "Space Dementia". The lyric line "And tear us apart and make us meaningless again" follows exactly Rachmaninoff's melody in the first movement, which is first played by string instruments in the beginning of the movement, and then again by the piano toward the movement's finale.[10][11][12] The 1941 Sinatra song "I Think of You" is also based on the concerto, with the lyric line following a theme from the first movement, and the accompaniment with influences from the third movement.[13]

Popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harrison, Max (2006). Rachmaninoff: Life, Works, Recordings. London: Continuum. pp. 92–99. ISBN 0-8264-9312-2.
  2. ^ a b "Rachmaninoff's Works for Piano and Orchestra". Classy Classical. 7 September 2005. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Brief Encounter theme is UK's top classic". The Guardian. 29 March 2005. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  4. ^ Norris, Geoffrey (1993). The Master Musicians: Rachmaninoff. New York City: Schirmer Books. pp. 113–115. ISBN 0-02-870685-4.
  5. ^ a b Steinberg, Michael (1998). The Concerto. Oxford University Press. pp. 357–358. ISBN 0-19-513931-3.
  6. ^ Woodrow Crob, Gary. "A descriptive analysis of the piano concertos of sergei vasilyevich rachmaninoff" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-30.
  7. ^ "Full Moon and Empty Arms". Time. 23 June 1947.
  8. ^ "Rachmaninoff - Concerto No. 2 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra - Utah Symphony". Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  9. ^ "An Interview with Eric Carmen Conducted by Gordon Pogoda in 1991", ericcarmen.com, archived from the original on 28 September 2011, retrieved 21 September 2010
  10. ^ Muse's Space Dementia vs. Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, 10 March 2014
  11. ^ Muse's Space Dementia sample of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto in C Minor, Opus 18, 1st Movement, WhoSampled
  12. ^ Muse and Russian Composers: Space Dementia-2nd Piano Concerto by Rachmaninoff, Moderato, 18 April 2010
  13. ^ Randolph, Marvin (17 December 2000). "'I Think Of You' Is Based On A Rachmaninoff Concerto". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  14. ^ Rhapsody (1954) on IMDb
  15. ^ Весна на Заречной улице [Spring on a Street Across the River]. kino-teatr.ru (in Russian).

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, W. R. (1947), Rachmaninov and his pianoforte concertos: A brief sketch of the composer and his style, London: Hinrichsen Edition Limited, pp. 9–14
  • Chung, So-Ham Kim (1988), An analysis of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 in C Minor opus 18: Aids towards performance (Dissertation), The Ohio State University, retrieved 4 August 2010
  • Coolidge, Richard (August 1979), "Architectonic Technique and Innovation in the Rakhmaninov Piano Concertos", The Music Review, 40 (3): 188–193
  • Culshaw, John (1950), Rachmaninov: The Man and His Music, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 78–84
  • Evans, Edwin, ed. (1942), Serge Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, Opus 18: Analysis, New York: Boosey & Hawkes
  • Slenczynska, Ruth (October 1973), "The Performer's Corner: The Opening of the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto", Clavier, 12 (7): 18
  • Tsukkerman, Viktor (1965), "Zhemchuzhina Russkoy Liriki (Pearls of Russian Lyricism)", Sovetskaya Muzika (in Russian) (1): 25–35
  • Veinus, Abraham (1945), The Concerto, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc., p. 248

External links[edit]