Rachmaninov festival - Complete Piano concertos
Isle of the Dead, Op. 29
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 1
The Rock, Op. 7
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
Rachmaninov was only 17 years old when he started composing his First Piano Concerto in 1890. This work was created during two idyllic summers at the Ivanovka estate (500 km southeast of Moscow), where his cousin, the slightly older concert pianist Alexander Siloti was preparing for the coming concert seasons by studying Grieg's Piano Concerto. It is therefore no coincidence that Rachmaninov's First Piano Concerto shows many affinities with this: the general structure, but also the dramatic-heroic opening chords. In 1917, Rachmaninov revisited his First Piano Concerto. It is that version, with a pared-down orchestration and piano part, that is played today.
Shortly before the turn of the century, Rachmaninov fell into a severe depression. The disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in October 1897 plummeted the young composer's self-confidence. However, a treatment with hypnosis caught on and Rachmaninov began to compose again. This resulted in the premiere of his Second Piano Concerto, a composition he dedicated to the psychiatrist treating him. The Second Piano Concerto is perhaps Rachmaninov's best-loved work: listeners are transported through deep, inky black abysses and wide expanses of idyllic fields to rarefied heights where it becomes difficult to breathe anymore. An unbridled longing pervades every note of the extremely demanding score.
Two symphonic poems are also on the programme of this concert. For The Rock, Rachmaninov drew inspiration from two verses by Lermontov: "The golden cloud drifts through the night / Over the breast of a gigantic rock." In addition, a story by Chekhov, about the encounter between an old man and a young girl at an inn on Christmas Eve, also served as a source of inspiration. Rachmaninov composed his symphonic poem The Island of the Dead after seeing a reproduction of the painting of the same name by Swiss symbolist Arnold Böcklin. In 5/8, a man in a small boat rows towards a bleak island full of cypress trees and classical architecture.
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Behzod Abduraimov, piano
Denis Kozhukhin, piano
Performed with the support of the Tax Shelter of the Belgian federal government.