Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini was his last and at the same time most significant work for piano and orchestra. As a cycle of variations on Paganini’s 24th Caprice from op. 1, it stands in the tradition of the great works on this famous theme by Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. “It’s something for the audiences”, wrote the reviewer of the New Yorker about one of the first performances of this Rhapsody with the composer at the piano, “the succession of brilliances for the piano, dramatic references to the Dies Irae, wide-open Schmalz for divided strings, and old-fashioned bravura”. Alongside the Second and Third Piano Concertos, this brilliant work today numbers among Rachmaninoff’s most frequently performed compositions.
For this first Urtext edition of the Rhapsody, the editor was able to consult both the autograph held by the Library of Congress and the first edition, the publication of which was supervised by the composer. In addition to the solo part, the piano reduction offers a very playable arrangement of the orchestral setting. Parallel with the present edition, the score and orchestral parts have been published in cooperation with Breitkopf & Härtel.
- Rapsodie sur un thème de Paganini for Piano and Orchestra op. 43
About the composer
Composer and pianist who continued and expanded the late-Romantic tradition; he prepared the way for Prokofiev and Shostakovich. His oeuvre comprises orchestral works, piano pieces, choral works, several operas, and numerous songs.
|1873||Born in Semyonovo on April 1. From 1880 receives professional instruction in music.|
|1885–92||Studies music at the Moscow Conservatory.|
|1890–92||Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 1, with the diminished fourth in the main theme typical of his style.|
|1892||Successful performance of his one-act opera “Aleko” (a graduation work). Prelude in C-sharp minor for piano.|
|1897||Unsuccessful premiere of the Symphony No. 1, Op. 13 (with abrupt contrasts). First experiences as an opera conductor at Moscow’s Mamontov Theater. He becomes acquainted with Fyodor Shalyapin, later his friend.|
|1900/01||Composition of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, in a modified style (broad melodic arcs, transparent compositional style).|
|1904–06||Appointed conductor at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.|
|1906||Premieres of the operas “The Miserly Knight,” Op. 24, and “Francesca da Rimini,” Op. 25.|
|1907||Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27, with whimsical figuration in the woodwinds; Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28.|
|1909||Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30; symphonic poem “The Isle of the Dead,” Op. 29|
|from 1910||More complex compositional technique (enhanced polyphony, ambiguous harmonies, fast rhythmic alterations) in Thirteen Preludes for piano, Op. 32; “Études-tableaux,” Op. 33 (1911); Fourteen Songs, Op. 34 (1910–16).|
|1917||Rachmaninoff leaves Russia and lives in Stockholm, Copenhagen, the United States (career as pianist), and Switzerland.|
|1926/41||Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40. In 1935/36, Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44.|
|from 1939||He emigrates permanently to the United States.|
|1943||Death in Beverly Hills on March 28.|