There are some pieces of music that change your life. Not in a hugely significant way, but in a subtle more enduring sort of way. There is something about a great melody that enters into your being/soul and somehow becomes a part of you. The Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 is full of great moments and is therefore a piece that absolutely everyone needs to know, if not already.
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He composed four piano concertos, of which no.2 is the most popular. In the past few years no.3 has also gained in popularity (a great version appeared on a CD that I featured in a previous post played by Martha Argerich). Both are worth knowing, but no.2 is definitely the place to start.
It is no surprise that the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 has been recorded many times, including by Rachmaninov himself. Each interpretation/recording brings something new, therefore choosing a definitive recording is difficult and futile. Feel free to share your favourite recording with me and my readers in the comments below.
My favourite recording is a remastering of an oldie, recorded in 1959 by Sviatoslav Richter and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the little known conductor, Stanislaw Wislocki.
The Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 consists of three movements, as follows:
2. Adagio Sostenuto
3. Allegro Scherzando
The exquisite main theme, of the first movement, which starts after about 0:35 played by the violins and violas, is about as gut wrenching and moving as it gets. The second movement also contains a wonderfully memorable melody beautifully played, first by the flute and later the clarinet. The speed of the final movement is thrilling and the precision and clarity of the piano playing is breathtaking. Music this good deserves to be known, loved and shared.
There is an excellent version on youTube played by Arcadi Volodos and the amazing Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly (both orchestra and conductor featured in a previous post: Shostakovich Jazz Suites).
Links to recording (tracks 1-3):