Serge Rachmaninoff

Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Nationality: Russian
Born: April 1, 1873, Oneg Died: March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills, CA (age 69)

String Quartet No. 1

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
6:01 I. Romance. Andante espressivo
5:06 II. Scherzo. Allegro
Duration: 11 minutes (approximately)
Composed: (?) 1889-1890 (age 15-17)
Note: 2 Movements
4 recordings, 6 videos
autoopen autoplay
Moz-Art Quartet
I. Romance. Andante espressivo
Moz-Art Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro
Borodin Quartet
I. Romance. Andante espressivo
Unknown ensemble
I. Romance. Andante espressivo
Rachmaninoff Quartet
I. Romance. Andante espressivo
Rachmaninoff Quartet
II. Scherzo. Allegro
From Kai Christiansen

Sergei Rachmaninov

Romance. Andante espressivo (from String Quartet No. 1, unfinished), ca. 1889-1890
Sergei RachmaninovSergei Rachmaninov was the last of the Russian romantic composers in an extraordinary tradition that largely ended with the revolution of 1917. His musical life comprised three simultaneous and eminently successful careers: concert pianist, conductor and composer. Rachmaninov's historical legacy lies in his compositions of which his most famous include his second and third piano concertos, his second symphony and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. His extraordinary gift for lyrical melody resulted in making several themes from these works immensely popular, familiar to us whether or not we recognize their origins. Two smaller works enjoyed the same phenomenon: the piano Prelude in c-sharp minor and the exquisite Vocalise that has been transcribed for nearly every imaginable ensemble including a moody rendition with a superimposed thunderstorm soundtrack. Rachmaninov also wrote a large number of art songs, operas, choral works and a few chamber works including the Cello Sonata in g minor and the Trio élégiaque in memory of Tchaikovsky, one of the young Rachmaniov's idols.

Rachmaninov twice attempted to write a string quartet, both times leaving the works unfinished with only two movements apiece. The Romance is from the earlier quartet written when Rachmaninov was still a precocious student at the Moscow Conservatory, already recognized as a gifted composer and pianist. It dates from 1889-1890 when he was only 17. It is a beguiling miniature: graceful, wistful and colorful with highlights of pizzicato and tremolo. It is easy to liken the piece to Tchaikovsky if not specifically the Serenade from his own first string quartet written twenty years earlier. The long, languid lines falling in the main theme seem akin to both composers, while the brighter, rising lines of the middle con moto section characterizes both compositions. Rachmaninov would continue to evoke this association in passages here or there while, as a mature composer, he would find his own magnificently distinct voice, especially in the works featuring the piano (monumental as well as miniature) of which he himself became the first great performer.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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