April 1st marks the 150th birth anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninoff, one of the most popular composers we play on WETA Classical. Born in Russia in 1873, he became one of the twentieth century’s greatest pianists and composers. His second and third piano concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the second symphony, Vocalise, and Prelude in C-sharp Minor have remained audience favorites year after year.
WETA Classical is celebrating this anniversary in a big way during April. Here are some of the highlights:
Birthday Weekend Celebration (Apr 1-2)
Each hour 6 am – 12 am, we’ll feature Rachmaninoff’s most popular works on WETA Classical: the piano concertos, the symphonies, the cello sonata, and the Symphonic Dances. And in between, we’ll play several of his piano solo pieces, many featuring Rachmaninoff himself at the piano, taken from early 20th-century recordings and piano rolls. We’ll even include his performance of the Star-Spangled banner (he became a US citizen shortly before his death). And as a special birthday tribute on Saturday evening, we’ll present Rachmaninoff himself at the piano in his Piano Concerto #2 from a 1929 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Rachmaninoff Moments (Apr 3-30)
During the remainder of April, we’ll explore the dozens of short piano pieces Rachmaninoff wrote during his years in Russia. Most of these will feature recordings from the newly released 32-CD set “Rachmaninov: The Complete Works” on the Decca label. Listen for these Rachmaninoff Moments four times each day and discover the wonderful variety of sounds he creates in his piano solo music. We’ll also feature his large piano works throughout the month: the piano sonatas, the variations, and the suites for two pianos.
Rach 3 in NSO Showcase (Apr 5)
Pianist Denis Kozhukhin tackles the monumental third piano concerto of Rachmaninoff. Listen on-air April 5 at 9 pm and all month long on demand at wetaclassical.org.
A special presentation of Vespers (Apr 15)
On the eve of Orthodox Easter, we’ll present a fantastic new recording of Rachmaninoff’s choral masterpiece, the All-Night Vigil (Vespers). Conductor Steven Fox leads The Clarion Choir.
Operas on VivaLaVoce (Apr 11, 18, 25)
We’ll present Rachmaninoff’s three completed operas on successive Tuesday nights in Opera at 8 on VivaLaVoce. Linda Carducci shares insights into these little-known works in a blog post here on Classical Score.
Songs on VivaLaVoce (Apr 17-30)
Rachmaninoff composed more than 80 songs, all during his years in Russia. We’re presenting all of them – 6 per day between 8am and 8pm – featuring soprano Elisabeth Söderström and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.
You’ll definitely want to check out the excellent Classical Breakdown podcast episodes on Rachmaninoff. In episode #50, WETA Classical hosts John Banther and Linda Carducci explore the life and music of Rachmaninoff. And in episode #69, Banther and Bill Bukowski discuss the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, including “breaking down” the compositional trick used in the famous 18th Variation. You can listen at classicalbreakdown.org or on your favorite podcast app.
Check back here throughout April for direct links to the many articles on Rachmaninoff we’ll feature as the month progresses.
Rachmaninoff’s Retreat in Switzerland Opens to the Public
WETA VivaLaVoce Celebrates Rachmaninoff 150: His Completed Operas Presented in April
April’s NSO Showcase Celebrates Rachmaninoff’s Birthday
Choral Showcase Celebrates Rachmaninoff at 150
Rachmaninoff's Vespers with The Thirteen
Cathedral Choral Society's Steven Fox Speaks about Rachmaninoff
Celebrate Rachmaninoff at 150 with the National Philharmonic
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