Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rach 2

Family Man asked me to post my favorite symphony. Except for the fact that symphonies are too long to fit on a single youtube, it sounded like a good idea. But the problem is that I don’t have a favorite symphony. I like many; I love none.

I do have a favorite piece of classical music. The third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. I love the whole concerto but the third movement is my favorite.

Unfortunately, it is also too long to fit on a single youtube. So you’ll have to click the second youtube as soon as the first is finished. Do it fast, so you don’t have too long a break between notes.

While you are listening, think about this. Before he wrote this, Rachmaninoff was suffering from severe writer’s block. His first symphony had been panned by the critics and that sent him into a deep funk. Clinically depressed, he could write nothing. This concerto is dedicated to Nicholai Dahl, the psychiatrist who used hypnotic suggestion to help him. Rachmaninoff finished the second and this third movement before he began writing the first movement. .

To me, this third movement is a musical picture of what Rachmaninoff went through as he worked through his depression and writers’ block. It opens with an agitated first theme, but that theme suddenly ends and the orchestra introduces a lyrical, melodic second theme that the piano repeats - longingly. But the calm, melodic period doesn’t last and soon the agitation begins again. It again ends suddenly and is followed by the lyrical theme, this time with even more longing. Then the pianist seems adrift for a while until the agitation begins again. But this time the agitation is finally integrated with the lyrical theme and the orchestra and pianist soar together until the final, ecstatic, coda. He is cured.

Close your eyes, listen, and think about that. Enjoy.