Lugansky - Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 4

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40 (1926-27, 1941) Nikolai Lugansky, soloist Alexander Vedernikov, conductor I. [0:00] Exp. - Theme 1 (Allegro Vivace (Alla breve)) [2:11] Exp. - Theme 2 (Moderato) [3:32] Exp. - Closing Theme (Allegro assai) [4:03] Dev. (Tempo come prima (Alla breve)) [6:15] Dev. (Allegro Vivace) [6:54] Recap. - Theme 2 (Poco meno mosso) [8:10] Recap. - Theme 1 (Tempo come prima - Tranquillo 9:00) II. [10:03] A (Largo) [14:08] B (L’istesso tempo, ma agitato) [15:08] A’ (Come prima) III. [17:00] Theme 1 (Allegro Vivace - quasi-cadenza) [18:59] Theme 2 (a tempo, meno mosso) [20:33] Closing Theme (Tempo I) [21:46] Dev. (Tempo l) [23:51] Recap. - Mvt 1 & 3 (L’istesso tempo. - a tempo rubato 25:17) “Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto had a lengthy genesis; indeed, by some accounts it may have taken almost 30 years to reach its final form. When Rachmaninoff composed his Etude Tableau in C minor, Opus 33, No. 3 in 1911, he withheld it from publication, likely because he realized it had the potential for something more. Indeed, part of the etude would ultimately morph into the climax of the second movement of his Fourth Piano Concerto. Based on surviving sketches and a contemporary press report, scholars speculate that he may have begun work on the concerto during the summers of 1914 and 1915, although these putative efforts did not yield a finished composition. In October 1917, Rachmaninoff’s life was forever changed as Russian society disintegrated in the wake of the Bolshevik coup. He and his family fled to Sweden in December, taking with them only what they could fit in their suitcases. Rachmaninoff’s home would be burnt to the ground, and he lost almost everything. To restore his family’s wealth, he abandoned composition and embarked on the life of a traveling piano virtuoso. After enduring grueling concert tours season after season, in 1926 he at last felt secure enough to take a sabbatical and return to composing. The result was the completion of the first version of the piano concerto, which premiered in March 1927 with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra and Rachmaninoff himself as soloist. He dedicated the piece to his friend and fellow Russian émigré, the composer Nikolai Medtner (who, like Rachmaninoff, continued to compose in a Romantic musical style well into the 20th century). Unfortunately, the critics were harsh, and Rachmaninoff himself seemed dissatisfied with the work. He began to revise it prior to its publication the following year. After leaving Russia, Rachmaninoff became increasingly obsessed with musical economy, and made substantial cuts to a number of his earlier pieces, including his Third Piano Concerto and Second Piano Sonata. Even before the premiere of the Fourth Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff had been concerned about its length, writing that “It will probably be performed like ‘The Ring’ [Wagner’s 15-hour operatic tetralogy] on several evenings in succession,” despite the fact that even the original version of the concerto was shorter than his previous work in the genre. Rachmaninoff cut 114 measures from the first published version that appeared in 1928, but remained dissatisfied with the work. Near the end of his life, during the summer of 1941 he revised it again, removing an additional 78 measures and substantially rewriting the finale. [...] The result is a focused yet subtle and complex masterpiece that features the lush orchestrations and expressive melodies for which Rachmaninoff is so well known; however, in terms of its structure and musical rhetoric, it is an unusually experimental and unconventional work from a composer who is usually thought of as stylistically conservative. The long time Rachmaninoff devoted to composing and revising the concerto would seem to indicate that the piece was particularly important to him. While his Second and Third Piano Concertos seems to explore conflicting emotions of melancholy and love, this concerto’s unusual features suggest alternative expressive aims. Perhaps in this work, which seems preoccupied with issues of struggle and acceptance, Rachmaninoff processed his feelings of displacement as an exile from his homeland.” - Houston Symphony Orchestra
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