Piano Concerto No. 2

Sergei Rachmaninoff—Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18

When Sergei Rachmaninoff began the construction of this staggeringly large piano masterpiece in 1900, he was caught amidst the ignominious flop of his Symphony No. 1. He had begun hypno-therapy by the hand of a man named Nikolai Dahl, to whom the concerto would ultimately be dedicated. This piano concerto had given Rachmaninoff the commercial smash of a comeback that his career needed.

The first movement begins only with the piano and is soon transfigured into a conglomeration of different themes passed around from the soloist to the rest of the orchestra in a frenzy of seamless interconnectivity. The movement comes to a vigorous close with a restless accelerando in C minor.

Movement two is quite a departure from the first, having intense undertones of sentimentality and a docile nature to its melodic motion. However, in contradiction of the majority of the movement’s theme, Rachmaninoff does include a bewilderingly complex cadenza.

The finale of the piece is truly massive. It travels through an agitated series of tempi and key signatures from the exposition to the very long and lively developmental section. The recapitulation sees a glorious romantic climax in C major, reminiscent of Rachmaninoff’s idol, Tchaikovsky. The full orchestra ends the tempestuous finale on a sprightly and staccato note, making this a spectacle of truly bold expression.

For more information, visit https://www.britannica.com/topic/Piano-Concerto-No-2-Rachmaninoff.