Sergei Rachmaninoff overcame the severe spiritual crisis caused by the disaster of his First Symphony after several years of silence. His Second Piano Concerto (1901) heralded the composer’s true “recuperation” and bore witness to the tremendous rise in his creative powers. As a token of gratitude, Rachmaninoff dedicated one of his finest works to his physician Dr Nikolai Vladimirovich Dahl.
A performance of the slow second movement of the concerto was greeted with delight by leading musical figures in Moscow. According to contemporaries, Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev cried during the performance, calling Rachmaninoff’s music brilliant. The concerto’s actual premiere on 27 October 1901 in Moscow was also an absolute triumph. The composer performed the solo, and the orchestra was conducted by Alexander Ilyich Siloti. The monumental nature of its form and the variety and power of the full-sounding piano, “competing” with the colourful orchestral score, give the concerto truly symphonic scale.
Everything in this pearl of Russian classical music – the “bell-like nature”, the broad expanse of lyrical themes, the rush of resilient and volitional rhythms, the mighty waves of culminations and the tranquil light of moments of contemplative peace – all of this is embodied with unusual beauty and it all leads towards the ultimate zenith – the powerful apotheosis, performed in delight and rejoicing.