Saturday, March 8, 2014

Romantic Realism: Rachmaninov's Second (Adagio)

"Listen to (...) Rachmaninoff’s Second. Men have not found the words for it, nor the deed nor the thought, but they have found the music (...) Let me see it made real. Let me see the answer to the promise of that music (...) the final, the fulfilled, innocent of pain". ~~Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Soloists: Olga Smirnova and Vladislav Lantratov. Choreography: J. Elo
Dedicated to a bizarre week in captivity in anticipation of the deal of a life-time (well, for now ;-)
The dancers in the video are rank amateurs performing in a Russian So You've Got Talent kinda show. The adagio from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, is a concerto for piano and orchestra composed between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901. At its 1897 premiere, Rachmaninoff's first symphony was derided by contemporary critics. The second piano concerto confirmed his genius. 

The 1917 Russian Revolution meant the end of Russia as the composer had known it. Rachmaninoff was a member of the bourgeoisie, and the Revolution led to the loss of his estate, his way of life, and his livelihood. On 22 December 1917, he left Petrograd for Helsinki with his wife and two daughters on an open sled, having only a few notebooks with sketches of his own compositions and two orchestral scores.

Near the end of 1918, he received three offers of lucrative American contracts. Although he declined all three, he decided the United States might offer a solution to his financial concerns. He departed Oslo for New York on 1 November 1918. (Wiki).

Like Ayn Rand, Rachmaninoff loved Hollywood, lived there, and was moved by the spirit of what it represented. A famous letter to a friend exults that a newly concocted melody "sounds like Hollywood," which he considered a high compliment. His music can perhaps be heard as an abstraction of the Hollywood spirit, an emotional concretization of all that Hollywood's vision of life offered to the troubled world of the twenties and thirties.

Also like Rand, the other Russian refugee, Rachmaninoff accepted the idea that he was living outside of his times. The day may come when we reconsider this. (...) Meanwhile, the ideas expressed in the words of Rand, the music of Rachmaninoff, and the visions of Hollywood flow directly into the culture that is not only that of modern America but of all those in the world who love their lives and their freedoms. (Source)