Rachmaninov festival - Complete Piano concertos
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Scherzo in D minor
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30
Rachmaninov composed his Third Piano Concerto, perhaps his most beloved work, in the summer of 1909 at the Ivanovka estate, the place where he had lost his heart and soul. The occasion for the composition was the lucrative offer of an American tour, during which Rachmaninov wanted to showcase himself first and foremost as a virtuoso pianist. However, little time to practise remained after finishing the score: Rachmaninov prepared for the premiere of his Third Piano Concerto by practising on a silent piano while crossing the Atlantic. After a first performance in November 1909 in New York, none other than Gustav Mahler conducted the second performance of Rachmaninov's piano concerto.
After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the composer-pianist settled permanently in the United States. Because of his emigration, however, Rachmaninov virtually stopped composing: in the last 20 years of his life, he wrote only six compositions. The first of these was the Fourth Piano Concerto, a work he would revise repeatedly. Jazzy influences, free rhythms and floating harmonies make the Fourth Piano Concerto sound a lot more modern than Rachmaninov's other piano concertos. This concerto is particularly popular in Russia.
Whereas the Scherzo in D minor is Rachmaninov's earliest extant orchestral composition (written in February 1888), the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini is one of Rachmaninov's last works, written in his summer house in Switzerland in the summer of 1934. The work that consists of a theme with 24 variations - which flow into each other without pause - can also be considered a piano concerto in three movements. The first 10 variations have the character of a first movement, variations 11 to 18 are reminiscent of an adagio and variations 19 to 24 form a kind of finale. Rachmaninov based the theme on Niccolò Paganini's twenty-fourth and final Capriccio for violin.
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Behzod Abduraimov, piano
Denis Kozhukhin, piano
Performed with the support of the Tax Shelter of the Belgian federal government.
Chief Conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester, Cristian Măcelaru is one of the fast-rising conductors in classical music.
“With prodigious technique and rhapsodic flair, Mr. Abduraimov dispatched the work’s challenges, including burst upon burst of arm-blurring octaves, with eerie command.” (The New York Times)
“[Kozhukhin’s] dazzling performance … must have lifted Orchestra Hall a few feet off its foundation.