1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rachmaninoff, Sergei Vasilievich

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RACHMANINOFF, SERGEI VASILIEVICH (1873-), Russian composer and pianist, was born at Onega, in Russia, March 20 1873; his grandfather, an excellent pianist, had been a pupil of the Irish musician John Field. He began his studies under his mother, but at nine he became a pupil of Anna Ornadtskaya. In 1882, however, the Rachmaninoff family removed to St. Petersburg, and Sergei entered the Conservatorium, where he remained till 1885, when, on the family again removing to Moscow, he joined the Conservatorium there, and was on terms of friendship with Scryabin, Siloti, Taneyeff and Arensky. When, in 1892, Rachmaninoff left the Conservatorium, he won the large gold medal for a one-act opera Aleka and followed it by many other works. About 1893 he composed a pianoforte suite, another for two pianos, a dozen songs, his first piano concerto, the symphonic picture The Rock and the elegiac trio on the death of Tschaikovsky. Next there followed his first symphony, produced by Glazounoff at St. Petersburg. In 1897-8 Rachmaninoff became conductor of Mamoutoff's private opera, a post he resigned after the season, and in 1899 he came to London to conduct a Royal Philharmonic concert. A second piano suite, another concerto and a violoncello sonata were quickly composed, and were followed by the one-act opera The Miser Knight (Moscow 1900, Boston 1910) and Francesca da Rimini (Moscow, same evening); during 1904-6 he directed the Moscow Opera, and from 1906 to 1908 he lived in Dresden as composer and pianist, visiting Paris in 1907. In 1909-10 he visited the United States for the first time, and then returned to Russia, where he wrote The Island of Death, the D minor piano Sonata, and the third and fourth piano concertos (1909 and 1917). In 1912 he produced The Bells, which was produced in Liverpool by Sir Henry J. Wood in 1921. Among his other compositions Spring, for chorus and orchestra, is particularly noteworthy, and his devotional music includes a wonderful setting of the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom (1910). In 1917 Rachmaninoff left Russia, and in 1918 he settled in New York.