Sergei Rachmaninov (also spelled Rachmaninoff, 1873–1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninov, it seemed, could do nothing right by most of his contemporary critics' and composers' standards. As a person, he appeared somewhat cold and aloof - Stravinsky once called him "a six-and-a-half foot tall scowl".
Life and Music
Sergei Rachmaninov was born on April 1st 1873 in Semyonovo, north-west Russia.
Rachmaninov's student years were nothing short of phenomenal. He consistently amazed his teachers with his jaw-dropping ability as a pianist and composer.
In 1891 at the age of just 18, he created a storm with his First Piano Concerto, an incredibly accomplished student work.
Music continued to flow from the young genius, including an apprentice opera, Aleko, in 1892.
Rachmaninov seemed unstoppable, composing a great run of pieces including the Cello Sonata and the Second Suite for Two Pianos, both in 1901.
However, his First Symphony from 1896 was roundly panned by critics, and caused the composer to enter a deep depression.
Rachmaninov's masterpiece was surely the Second Piano Concerto from 1901. It's subsequent use in the film Brief Encounter have made it a constant favourite.
With his phenomenal conducting skills, Rachmaninov was appointed Principal Conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre in 1904 and offered several major posts in America, most notably with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
He left Russia for good after the 1917 Russian revolution, first heading to Helsinki and finally ending up in the US.
Rachmaninov died of melanoma on 28 March 1943, in Beverly Hills, four days before his 70th birthday.
Did you know?
In 1931 Rachmaninov's music was officially banned in the USSR as 'decadent' with the chilling warning: "This music [The Bells] is by a violent enemy of Soviet Russia: Rachmaninov".