Miroslav Kultyshev, Aleksandr Kliuchko, Eva Gevorgyan, Alexander Kashpurin
" I am a Russian composer and my homeland has left an imprint on my character and my views. "
(Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninov)
On April 1, the music world celebrates the 150th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninov - a composer, whose music is considered a symbol of Russia, a brilliant pianist and conductor, an aristocrat of spirit, a native of Novgorod Province, who lived in exile for many years and who yearns endlessly for his homeland. The Saint Petersburg Music House soloists, who have performed his music, reflect on the phenomenon of " the most Russian composer ever ".
Pianist Miroslav Kultyshev, winner of the XIII International Tchaikovsky Competition (2007):
In all of Rachmaninov's work, a Great Sadness is dissolved, the likes of which, and all the more so in such a concentrated form, we will not find in other composers’ music. The magic of Rachmaninov's pianism lies in its particular relief and sculpture. Every note played by Rachmaninov – fortunately, quite a few recordings have survived – is pure gold. Despite its sometimes introverted and hermetic nature, his music reaches into everyone's heart, resonating with the deepest layers of the human soul.
Pianist Aleksandr Kliuchko, winner of the first prize award in the International Rachmaninov Competition (2022):
Rachmaninov, in my opinion, is unique for his melodicism, for how he unfolds the form, for his very pianistic presentation of the texture. His music is particularly in tune with the Russian soul, it is close to Russian culture. It seems to me that he continues Modest Mussorgsky's path, but whereas Mussorgsky addresses very specific historical events in his music, Rachmaninov's music is felt on the level of being. And, of course, for us who study his music after 100 years, his entire oeuvre is imbued with a sense of tragedy – the loss of his homeland. Knowing this, we can sense this loss even in works written before he left Russia. The prevailing feeling from his music for me is nostalgia for home, nostalgia for the past, metaphysical and transcendental nostalgia.
Rachmaninov was a great pianist, of course the recordings of his own works are benchmarks, but the recordings of him playing other composers are also of great interest. In his recordings of Chopin's Sonata or Schumann's Carnival, one can sense a tremendous individuality and freshness of interpretation. In my opinion, apart from technical perfection, what strikes me in Rachmaninov's pianism is the incredible differentiation of texture, the stunning sonic control of its various layers, the crystal-clear creative intention and its aural embodiment.
Rachmaninov's music is mysterious in many ways, thanks to his modernist harmonic language. The synthesis of the harmonic variety and romantic melodies framed by inventive piano texture creates a very special feeling. In his later compositions, rhythm also becomes an essential means of expression, in tune with the new times, and the character of the works sometimes displays a sarcastic mood and sometimes a fatalism of a passed life.
Pianist Eva Gevorgyan, winner of the third prize award in the 1st International Rachmaninoff Competition (2022):
Rachmaninov's music has great energy, will and power, great inner tension and love for his homeland. The famous chime of the bells, which Rachmaninov repeatedly conveyed in his works, personally hypnotises me, I cannot tear myself away from his music. You can't listen to Rachmaninov in the background, he becomes so involved and engrossing that you forget where you are.
As you know, Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov had very large hands, so it wasn't difficult for him to take the broad chords with which his works are filled. But the main thing for Rachmaninov was not technique, it was interpretation, the ability to convey the concept of a work, and his impeccable pianism served the purpose of that concept. That is why, for me, the magic of his pianism is inseparably linked with the realization of all conceived ideas, and this becomes possible only when the complete freedom of the pianistic apparatus has been achieved. I read that Rachmaninov regularly did a series of exercises to stretch his tendons and muscles.
For me Rachmaninov's music is an element, an ocean of emotions and this ocean is alive, it breathes. It's like you get on a boat, you're carried on the waves and you become part of that ocean, you become one with it. You're alone with the music and there's no one else in the world. Insanely beautiful, long, malleable melodies, rich, polyphonic textures, exciting climaxes. But most importantly, Rachmaninov's music goes straight to the heart and remains there forever.
Pianist Alexander Kashpurin, winner of the First International Russian Piano Competition (2020):
What sets Rachmaninov apart from other composers is the special spirituality that is in his music. It is not a spirituality that is edifying, but, in my opinion, a spirituality which is the basis of his entire creative world. It's simple and yet extremely multi-faceted at the same time. His imagistic world is very vulnerable to conveying subtle moods, creating an incredible range from "Vocalise" to, for example, his romances "Dissonance" or "Aoo!". This is an artist who, without using a single "quotation" from folk or church music, is able to create a musical texture of such force and cultural power that they are seen as an allegory of Russianness.
Rachmaninov created a completely new approach, a new attitude to the piano as a phenomenon. His pianism - now broad and large, now compact and virtuoso - was the result of a creative, not technical search. The absence of effect, but virtuosity as a necessity, as the supreme, transcendental language of music - these are the main traits of Rachmaninov's pianism. He enriched the piano technique, making each finger literally lead its own voice.
The secret of the beauty of Rachmaninov's Music (capitalized) is humility. Rachmaninov served God and people with music, never considering himself better than others, admiring real talent and helping everyone around him as much as possible.
Interview by Tatiana Mikhailova