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Composed between 1900 and 1901, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is often described as the greatest piano concerto ever written.
After the disastrous premiere of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in 1897, the composer fell into a deep depression and suffered severe writer's block. Luckily, the composition of his Piano Concerto No. 2 marked his full recovery, and it's a good job he took his time over it: every memorable phrase, swelling cello line, and weighty piano chord is beautifully placed to create a musical masterpiece. Glorious melody after glorious melody flows from the keyboard; the dialogue between orchestra and soloist is divine; and Rachmaninov undoubtedly had a hit on his hands.
The music is both virtuosic and lyrical all at once, with the piano and orchestra taking it in turns to caress the heavy Russian melody. With the bell-like chords in the opening movement, the serenity of the arpeggios in the second, and the confident drive of the third, it's easy to presume this piece was the work of a an assured, confident composer, whereas the truth was very different.
If, when listening to the sublime second movement, you think you might have heard the tune somewhere else before, take a listen to the power ballad 'All By Myself'. The song was based on Rachmaninov’s melody.
The music is certainly popular, judging by the thousands of votes it receives every year in the Classic FM Hall of Fame – enough to make it a regular No.1 since 1996 in our annual charts and the overall No.1 in the aggregated chart.