Rachmaninov In America

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01In America: A Reluctant Visitor2018092420200525 (R3)

Reluctant even to visit at first, and once there always more than a little homesick, this proudly Russian composer in fact lived in the United States of America for 25 years, from the end of the First World War until his death in 1943. His life there was principally that of a virtuoso performer, not a composer, and Rachmaninov gave recitals for presidents, recorded discs for Thomas Edison, and felt obliged to rattle off his “hated” Prelude in C sharp minor for concert audiences wherever he went.

Today, Donald Macleod examines the composer’s first concert tour of the states, in 1909, when Rachmaninov was finally convinced to go there by the prospect of purchasing a new automobile with the considerable appearance fees the tour offered. But he was equivocal: despite the tour’s success, American life didn’t particularly appeal, and he turned down offers of more work, returning to Moscow with no intention to go back. Within just a few years, political events would change his mind again.

Prelude in C sharp minor
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Piano concerto in D minor, 1st movement
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
New York Philharmonic
Eugene Ormandy, conductor

The Isle of the Dead, Op 29
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner

A Dream (6 Songs, Op 38 No 5)
Renee Fleming, soprano
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

The Star-Spangled Banner for piano
Idil Biret, piano

Produced by Dominic Jewel for BBC Wales

Rachmaninov was equivocal about his first USA tour in 1909. Donald Macleod finds out why.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

02In America: Earning a Living2018092520200526 (R3)

Reluctant even to visit at first, and once there always more than a little homesick, this proudly Russian composer in fact lived in the United States of America for 25 years, from the end of the First World War until his death in 1943. His life there was principally that of a virtuoso performer, not a composer; and Rachmaninov gave recitals for presidents, recorded discs for Thomas Edison, and felt obliged to rattle off his “hated” Prelude in C sharp minor for concert audiences wherever he went.

Today, Donald Macleod finds out how Rachmaninov adjusted to life in New York. Fleeing extreme socialism, he quickly encountered extreme capitalism: greeted on arrival by a succession of celebrated artists and reporters, the composer was wooed by record companies and piano manufacturers eager for his endorsement.

Prelude in C sharp minor
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, 1st movement
Krystian Zimerman, piano
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

Polichinelle in F sharp minor, Op 3 No 4
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

Lento a capriccio (The Bells)
BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Yevgeny Svetlanov, conductor

Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 in C sharp minor (Liszt, arr. Rachmaninov)
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

Liebeslied (arr. for piano)
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

Produced by Dominic Jewel for BBC Wales

Donald Macleod follows his Rachmaninov's progress in the US.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

03In America: Homesick Sabbatical2018092620200527 (R3)

Reluctant even to visit at first, and once there always more than a little homesick, this proudly Russian composer in fact lived in the United States of America for 25 years, from the end of the First World War until his death in 1943. His life there was principally that of a virtuoso performer, not a composer; and Rachmaninov gave recitals for presidents, recorded discs for Thomas Edison, and felt obliged to rattle off his “hated” Prelude in C sharp minor for concert audiences wherever he went.

By 1926, Rachmaninov was exhausted by his schedule as a pianist, and frustrated that he’d not written more music. He planned a year off, to write his fourth piano concerto – but still struggled to make space for composition, lamenting the lack of “quiet” he found stateside, and looking back with poignancy to his former life in Russia.

Etudes Tableaux, Op 33, Nos 2 and 7
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

3 Russian Songs, Op 41
Russian State Symphony Orchestra
Valery Polyansky, conductor

Marche (Etudes Tableaux, orch. Respighi)
Minnesota Orchestra
Eiji Oue, conductor

1926 was to be Rachmaninov\u2019s year off for composing. Donald Macleod sees how it turned out

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

04In America: European Vacations2018092720200528 (R3)

Reluctant even to visit at first, and once there always more than a little homesick, this proudly Russian composer in fact lived in the United States of America for 25 years, from the end of the First World War until his death in 1943. His life there was principally that of a virtuoso performer, not a composer; and Rachmaninov gave recitals for presidents, recorded discs for Thomas Edison, and felt obliged to rattle off his “hated” Prelude in C sharp minor for concert audiences wherever he went.

In his search for the peace and quiet in which he could compose, Rachmaninov spent huge sums on his new estate in Switzerland. The house he built there, Senar, would be his residence for the next few summers, and the place in which he would write some of his most enduringly popular music.

Variations on a theme of Corelli, Op 42
Nikolai Lugansky, piano

Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op 43
Daniil Trifonov, Piano
Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Conductor

Symphony No 3 in A minor, Op 44, second movement
Soviet State Symphony Orchestra
Yevgeny Svetlanov, conductor

Produced by Dominic Jewel for BBC Wales

Donald Macleod explores Rachmaninov\u2019s pre-war Swiss summers of productive peace and quiet.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

05In America: Apple Pie?2018092820200529 (R3)

Reluctant even to visit at first, and once there always more than a little homesick, this proudly Russian composer in fact lived in the United States of America for 25 years, from the end of the First World War until his death in 1943. His life there was principally that of a virtuoso performer, not a composer; and Rachmaninov gave recitals for presidents, recorded discs for Thomas Edison, and felt obliged to rattle off his “hated” Prelude in C sharp minor for concert audiences wherever he went.

Rachmaninov was slow to embrace his adopted country, never really learning proper English – his correspondence was all translated into Russian – and always looking back longingly to mother Russia, a place now inaccessible to him. But he did come to love the United States and eventually, in the final year of his life, became a citizen. By then he’d become immersed in American cultural life, relishing jazz music and even admiring Mickey Mouse’s take on his ubiquitous Prelude.

Prelude in C sharp minor (arr. Barnet)
Charlie Barnet, saxophone
Charlie Barnet Rhythm Makers

3 Symphonic Dances, Op 45
Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy, conductor

The Muse (14 Songs, Op 34)
Daniil Shtoda - Tenor
Iain Burnside - Piano

What Happiness (14 Songs, Op 34)
Evelina Dobraceva - Soprano
Iain Burnside - Piano

Vocalise (14 Songs, Op 34)
Ekaterina Siurina - Soprano
Iain Burnside - Piano

Lilacs
Sergei Rachmaninov, piano

Produced by Dominic Jewel for BBC Wales

In 1943, Rachmaninov became a US citizen at last. Donald Macleod looks at his final years.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

05In America: Apple Pie?2018092820200529 (R3)

In 1943, Rachmaninov became a US citizen at last. Donald Macleod looks at his final years.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201801In America: A Reluctant Visitor2018092420200525 (R3)

Rachmaninov was equivocal about his first USA tour in 1909. Donald Macleod finds out why.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201802In America: Earning A Living2018092520200526 (R3)

Donald Macleod follows his Rachmaninov's progress in the US.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201803In America: Homesick Sabbatical2018092620200527 (R3)

1926 was to be Rachmaninov's year off for composing. Donald Macleod sees how it turned out

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201804In America: European Vacations2018092720200528 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Rachmaninov's pre-war Swiss summers of productive peace and quiet.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201805In America: Apple Pie?2018092820200529 (R3)

In 1943, Rachmaninov became a US citizen at last. Donald Macleod looks at his final years.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.