Deutsche Grammophon is set to mark the 150th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birth with the release of three essential albums. “Rachmaninoff speaks to listeners as powerfully today as ever,” says Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “His music first entered the DG catalogue during his lifetime and – as our anniversary tribute proves – it continues to inspire a remarkable generation of performers today. These wonderful recordings and breathtaking STAGE+ videos offer fresh insights into some of his greatest works.”
To coincide with Rachmaninoff’s birthday on 1 April, STAGE+ is releasing a curated selection of video-on-demand streams – music by the composer performed by exceptional artists such as Yuja Wang, Hélène Grimaud, Lang Lang and Daniil Trifonov.
A special edition of Daniil Trifonov’s award-winning Destination Rachmaninov project, recorded with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra, comes out today (31 March), a day ahead of the celebration. The reissue, comprising 3 CDs and a High-Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, includes all four piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, along with Trifonov’s solo piano transcriptions of the Vocalise and Silver Sleigh Bells and Rachmaninoff’s own transcription of three movements from Bach’s Partita for solo violin, BWV 1006.
Last month, Yuja Wang performed all five works for piano and orchestra over a series of concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel as part of the orchestra’s Rachmaninoff Festival. “Wang played with exceptional power, depth and dazzle,” noted the Los Angeles Times. “Dudamel went in for illumination. The pianist and conductor have had a long musical relationship, and it showed. What seemed the most impressive was the focus. Once each performance started, all else seemed to fall away.”
The complete live audio and audiovisual recordings captured during these recent landmark concerts will be available in August 2023. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini will be available from today (31 March) as an e-single.
Set for release on 30 June, meanwhile, DG’s third Rachmaninoff 150 album sees The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin present Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 and The Isle of the Dead. The 2‑CD release will complete their two-part survey of the three symphonies and other major orchestral works and, like the first instalment of 2021 – an acclaimed recording of Symphony No. 1 and the Symphonic Dances – and their work with Daniil Trifonov, continues to build on the orchestra’s incomparable Rachmaninoff legacy. The Russian pianist-composer made his first appearance as soloist with the Fabulous Philadelphians in 1909; played with and conducted the orchestra many times over the next 34 years; recorded his works for piano and orchestra with it; and wrote his Paganini Rhapsody, Third Symphony and Symphonic Dances with its famously rich sound in mind.
Also marking this year’s anniversary celebrations, on 24 March DG’s sister label Decca re-released Rachmaninov – The Complete Works, a comprehensive 32-CD set featuring benchmark recordings by Martha Argerich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nelson Freire, Kirill Kondrashin, Mikhail Pletnev, André Previn, Sviatoslav Richter, Elisabeth Söderström and other legendary Rachmaninoff interpreters.
Born on 1 April 1873 in the Novgorod region of western Russia, Rachmaninoff moved as a child to St Petersburg, where he enrolled at the city’s conservatoire. He subsequently flourished as a student at the Moscow Conservatory, graduated with its prestigious Great Gold Medal and, in 1893, saw his opera Aleko achieve great success. Plunged into depression four years later by the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony, he rebuilt his confidence with the help of Dr Nikolay Dahl and went on to produce such major works as the Second and Third Piano Concertos, Second Symphony, The Bells and two more operas, Francesca da Rimini and The Miserly Knight, over the next 20 years. He emigrated after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, ultimately settling in the US, where he focused primarily on his career as a soloist. He continued to compose, however, and the rich melodic invention of such late masterworks as the Variations on a Theme of Corelli (his last work for solo piano), the Paganini Rhapsody, Third Symphony and Symphonic Dances delighted audiences worldwide. Rachmaninoff died in Beverly Hills on 28 March 1943.