Piano Concerto No. 2 (Rachmaninoff)

Piano Concerto No. 2 (Rachmaninoff)

Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18, is a work in C minor for piano accompanied by orchestra, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901.cite book
last = Harrison
first = Max
title = Rachmaninoff: Life, Works, Recordings
year = 2006
publisher = Continuum
location = London
isbn = 0-8264-9312-2
pages = pp. 92–99
] The second and third movements were first performed with the composer as soloist on 2 December 1900. [ [http://classyclassical.blogspot.com/2005/09/rachmaninoffs-works-for-piano-and.html Classy Classical: Rachmaninoff's Works for Piano and Orchestra ] ] The complete work was premiered, again with the composer as soloist, on October 27, 1901, [ [http://classyclassical.blogspot.com/2005/09/rachmaninoffs-works-for-piano-and.html Classy Classical: Rachmaninoff's Works for Piano and Orchestra ] ] with his cousin Alexander Siloti conducting.

This piece is one of his most enduringly popular pieces, and established his fame as a concerto composer.cite book
last = Norris
first = Geoffrey
title = The Master Musicians: Rachmaninoff
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=aPc2AAAACAAJ
year = 1993
publisher = Schirmer Books
location = New York City
isbn = 0-02-870685-4
pages = 113-115


At its 1897 premiere, Rachmaninoff's first symphony, though now considered a significant achievement, was derided by critics.cite book | last= Steinberg | first= Michael | title= The Concerto | publisher= Oxford University Press | date = 1998 | pages = 357 | id = ISBN 0-19-513931-3] 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. The concerto was dedicated to Nikolai Dahl, a physician who had done much to restore Rachmaninoff's self-confidence.cite book | last = Steinberg | first = Michael | title = The Concerto | publisher = Oxford University Press | date = 1998 | pages = 358 | id = ISBN 0-19-513931-3]


The work is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in Bmusic|flat and A, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in Bmusic|flat, 3 trombones (2 tenor, bass), tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, solo piano, and strings. It is written in three-movement concerto form.

Moderato - C minor

The opening movement begins with a series of bell-like tollings on the piano that build tension, eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme. In this first section, the orchestra carries the Russian-character melody while the piano makes an accompaniment made of arpeggios. After the statement of the long first theme, a quicker transition follows until the more lyrical second theme, in E flat major, is presented.

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 music builds in a huge climax as if the work was going to repeat the first bars of the work, but the recapitulation is going to be quite different.

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, played by the orchestra has become an accompaniment. The rest of the recapitulation is quite literal, and the piece ends in C minor "fortissimo".

Adagio sostenuto - C minor → E major

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. The piano enters, playing a simple arpeggiated figure. A flute then introduces the main theme. The motif is passed between the piano and other soloists before the music accelerates to a short climax centered on the 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

The last movement opens with a short orchestral introduction that modulates from E (the key of the previous movement) to C, before a piano solo leads to the statement of the agitated first theme. After the original fast tempo and musical drama ends, a lyrical theme is introduced by the oboe and violas. This second theme maintains the motif of the first movement's second theme. After a long period of development tension is built up considerably. Near the end, Rachmaninoff restates the second theme in loud, "fortissimo" orchestration. After this, a fast, ecstatic coda draws the piece to a close, ending in C major.

In popular culture

Use in films

The following films have made use of the concerto:
*"Brief Encounter" (1945) - Eileen Joyce's recording features prominently as the sound track
*"September Affair" (1950) - Joan Fontaine plays a pianist who is preparing to perform the concerto; the music appears often throughout the film, and near the end, she plays the concerto
*"Rhapsody" (1954) - it features prominently towards the end of the film, when one of the two leading men (played by John Ericson), who had been suffering from depression and alcoholism, performs it at a concert, thereby demonstrating that he has overcome his personal weaknesses.
*"The Seven Year Itch" (1955) - Tom Ewell's character plays a recording of the concerto in the hopes that the passionate music will seduce Marilyn Monroe's character.
*"The World of Henry Orient" (1964)
*"Center Stage" (2000)
*"" (2004)
*"Spider-Man 3" (2007) - Bernd Glemser's recording of the concerto was background music in Harry's apartment
*"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" (2007) - the character played by Natalie Portman states that she was a child prodigy for her ability to play the concerto.


*The concerto, especially the last movement, is mentioned favorably by the heroes of Ayn Rand's novel "The Fountainhead".
*The "adagio sostenuto" is the basis for the melodic theme of the 1976 pop/rock hit "All by Myself" by Eric Carmen.
*The "adagio sostenuto" is also the basis for the popera song "Nostalgia" by Amici Forever.
*The "moderato" theme is the basis for Frank Sinatra's "I think of you".
*The "allegro scherzando" theme is the basis for Frank Sinatra's 1945 "Full Moon And Empty Arms".
*The songs "Space Dementia", "Butterflies and Hurricanes", "Megalomania" and "Ruled by Secrecy" by the band Muse all contain quotes from the "moderato".
*The concerto was played by a character on the TV series "Smallville".
*The concerto was featured in Nodame Cantabile (anime and drama version), with the piano solo played by Shinichi Chiaki, and the orchestra conducted by Franz von Stresemann.
*The concerto was featured in the anime Gankutsuou, with the piano solo played by Eugenie Danglars
*The "adagio sostenuto" and "allegro scherzando" movements appear during the second to last dance scene of the ballet movie "Center Stage".
*The flute from the "adagio sostenuto" is used often in the first OVA of the anime Samurai X.
* The drum solo section of X Japan Concert in Dahlia Tour-Last Live was used the First movement of this concerto as BGM.
* The piano solo was featured in Susy Blue, a Mexican stop motion short film, played by Susy, the main character.


Multi-listen item
filename = Sergei Rachmaninoff - piano concerto no. 2 in c minor, op. 18 - i. moderato.ogg
title = Moderato
description = Performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. Courtesy of [http://www.musopen.com Musopen] .
Multi-listen item
filename = Sergei Rachmaninoff - piano concerto no. 2 in c minor, op. 18 - ii. adagio sostenuto.ogg
title = Adagio sostenuto
description = Performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. Courtesy of Musopen.
Multi-listen item
filename=Sergei Rachmaninoff - piano concerto no. 2 in c minor, op. 18 - iii. allegro scherzando.ogg
title=Allegro scherzando
description=Performed by the Skidmore College Orchestra. Courtesy of Musopen.

Further reading

* W.R. Anderson: Rachmaninov and his pianoforte concertos. A brief sketch of the composer and his style. London 1947
* So-Ham Kim Chung: An analysis of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 in C Minor opus 18. Aids towards performance. Dissertation Ohio 1988


cite book |last=Schirmer |first=G |authorlink=G. Schirmer |title=Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1; Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 (Orchestra reduction for second piano) |year=1996 |publisher=Dover Publications |location=Mineola, New York |isbn=0-486-29114-6 |pages=101-163] cite web |url=http://inkpot.com/classical/rachpfc2.html |title=The Second Piano Concerto |accessdate=2007-10-15 |author=Yungkans, Jonathan |date=2001-03-14 |work=The Flying Inkpot ] cite web |url=http://www.lasr.cs.ucla.edu/geoff/prognotes/rachmaninoff/pianoCon2.html |title=Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor |accessdate=2007-10-15 |author=Kuenning, Geoff |date=2000 |work=Symphony of the Canyons ]

External links

* [http://classyclassical.blogspot.com/2005/09/rachmaninoffs-works-for-piano-and.html Rachmaninoff's Works for Piano and Orchestra] An analysis of Rachmaninoff's Works for Piano and Orchestra including the Piano Concertos and the Paganini Rhapsody

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