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ClassicsOnline Home » RACHMANINOV: 13 Preludes, Op. 32 / KREISLER: Liebesleid and Liebesfreud (arr. S. Rachmaninov)
Sergey Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943)
Préludes, Op. 32
Kreisler (arr. Rachmaninov) Liebesleid
Not a particularly industrious student and lacking the
attention that he needed at home, in 1885 Rachmaninov failed his general subject
examinations at the Conservatory and there were threats that his scholarship would be
withdrawn. His mother, now separated from his father and responsible for the boy's
welfare, arranged that he should move to Moscow to study with Zverev, a teacher of known
strictness. In Zverev's house, however uncongenial the strict routine, he acquired much of
his phenomenal technique as a pianist, while broadening his musical understanding by
attending concerts in the city. At the age of fifteen he became a pupil of Zverev's former
pupil Ziloti at the Conservatory, studying counterpoint and harmony with Sergey Taneyev
and Arensky. His growing interest in composition led to a quarrel with Zverev and removal
to the house of his relations, the Satins.
In 1891 Rachmaninov completed his piano
studies at the Conservatory and the composition of his first piano concerto. The
following year he graduated from the composition class and composed his notorious Prélude in C sharp minor, a piece that was to haunt
him by its excessive popularity. His early career brought initial success as a composer,
halted by the failure of his first symphony, conducted badly by Glazunov, apparently drunk
at the time, and reviewed in the cruellest terms by César Cui who described it as a
student attempt to depict in music the seven plagues of Egypt. Rachmaninov busied himself
as a conductor, signing a contract with the Mamontov opera company. As a composer,
however, he suffered from the poor reception of his symphony and was only enabled to
continue after a course of treatment with Dr. Nikolay Dahl, a believer in the efficacy of
hypnotism. The immediate result was the second of his four piano concertos.
The years before the Russian revolution brought continued
successful activity as a composer and as a conductor. In 1902 Rachmaninov married Natalya
Satina and went on to pursue a career that brought him increasing international fame.
There were journeys abroad and a busy professional life, from which summer holidays at the
estate of lvanovka, which he finally acquired from the Satins in 1910, provided respite.
All this was interrupted with the abdication of the Tsar in 1917 and the beginning of the
Rachmaninov left Russia in 1917. From
then until his death in Beverley Hills in 1943, he was obliged to rely largely on
performance for a living. Now there was very much less time for composition, as he
undertook demanding concert tours, during which he dazzled audiences in Europe and America
with his remarkable powers as a pianist. His house at lvanovka was destroyed in the
Russian civil war, and in 1931, the year of the Corelli Variations, his music was banned
in Russia, to be permitted once more two years later. He spent much time in America, where
there were lucrative concert tours, but established a music publishing house in Paris and
built for himself a villa near Lucerne, where he completed his Paganini Rhapsody in 1934 and his Third Symphony a
year later. In 1939 he left Europe to spend
his final years in the United States.
The first set of Préludes, published in 1903 as Op. 23, begins a series that, with the
thirteen Préludes of the later Op. 32, completed in 1910, makes use of all major and
minor keys, with the exception of C Sharp Minor, already claimed by the Op. 10 Prélude in that key. The procession of keys,
however, lacks the logic of Chopin's similar work. The thirteen Préludes of Opus
To transcribe a work of Fritz Kreisler is a case of the
transcriber transcribed, since the Austrian violinist was an adept at the art, although
some of his transcriptions were, in fact, original compositions, as was later revealed.
The celebration of the joys and sorrows
of love, described as old Viennese dances, seems to be original Kreisler.
Rachmaninov, however, with the possibilities of the piano in front of him, makes of both
compositions works of much greater complexity, demanding more of the player than Kreisler
had done of the violinist. The first of the two, in particular, is much extended.
Born in Ankara, Idil Biret began piano lessons at the age of
three. She displayed an outstanding gift for music and graduated from the Paris
Conservatoire with three first prizes when she was fifteen. She studied piano with Alfred
Cortot and Wilhelm Kempff, and composition with Nadia Boulanger.
Since the age of sixteen Idil Biret has performed in concerts
around the world playing with major orchestras under the direction of conductors such as
Monteux, Boult, Kempe, Sargent, de Burgos, Pritchard, Groves and Mackerras. She has
participated in the festivals of Montreal, Persepolis, Royan, La Rochelle, Athens, Berlin,
Gstaad and Istanbul. She was also invited to perform at the 85th birthday celebration of
Wilhelm Backhaus and at the 90th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Kempff.
Idil Biret received the Lily Boulanger
Memorial Fund award (1954/1964), the Harriet Cohen/Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal (1959) and the
Polish Artistical Merit Award (1974) and was named Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite in
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RACHMANINOV: 13 Preludes, Op. 32 / KREISLER: Liebe...