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Thread: Rachmaninoff's first symphony

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    Default Rachmaninoff's first symphony

    After a number of years listening to classical music Rachmaninoff continues to be one of my favourites. The first time I heard his symphonies (1-3) I was not particularly impressed and preferred his solo piano works (in particular preludes + etudes-tableaux). However, after revisiting his symphonies I have came to believe that the famous failure that was his first is, not only his best symphony, but one of the best I have heard from a "romantic" composer.
    I imagine that quite a number here would not have heard it unless they are Rachmaninoff enthusiasts as recordings are few and far between but of those who have heard his first symphony- what do you think?
    I realise it has it's imperfections by I still think it is a work of genius and recently found that some critics now think it is his best also. Any response is greatly appreciated.

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    Well, that's a fact, that the first symphony (op. 13 d-minor) was written by Rakhmaninov in his early years. And after a first night (totally ruined by Glazunov's conducting) score was destroyed by an author. Even more - after that Rakhmaninov wasn't trying to compose anything for about 3 years!... As for me, I've got a full score and a recording by E. Svetlanov. Although I'm not a fan of Rakhmaninov's orchestra works (they are too "pianistic" for my mind) I dy appreciate this symphony. But with all my respect it cannot be called the best! The second one is much more beautiful (I'm a real fan of its II and III parts). Second is a "golden middle" between a non-professional first(starting with form and ending with orchestration) and "too unusial for Rakhmaninov" third. And I suppose that because of it's being less known then the others, it really sounds rather "fresh". But I don't consider it to be the best... (Try to listen to first piano concerto op. 1 - and you'll find it rather fresh too...)

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    Default Rachmaninov's First

    Sergei Rachmaninov's First Symphony in D Minor Op. 13 written in 1895 is a gem of a work . Absolutely personal and beautiful. The opening chords are majestic and immediately set your feet on to the extremely romantic journey that you would undertake when you listen to that symphony. All movements are beautiful. Listening to this symphony brought me to the impression that this guy is my favourite after Tchaikovsky.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Has anyone seen the 2001 film, "Enemy at the Gates"? James Horner stole the chromatic, 4 note introductions from all the movements to use as a basis for the film score. Can't he leave Russian symphonic music alone?! He also used elements of Shozzy's 5th in the 2004 film "Troy". Saying that, "Enemy at the Gates" is good and I'd reccomend it to any war film fans.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215750/
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Junior Member Rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    Has anyone seen the 2001 film, "Enemy at the Gates"? James Horner stole the chromatic, 4 note introductions from all the movements to use as a basis for the film score. Can't he leave Russian symphonic music alone?! He also used elements of Shozzy's 5th in the 2004 film "Troy". Saying that, "Enemy at the Gates" is good and I'd reccomend it to any war film fans.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215750/

    Actually, the 4 notes are also used by Horner in his scores for Avatar, Willow, The Land Before Time, The New World, Project X, Honey I Shrunk the Kids... and so on. Then again, I haven't heard all of his work. There's probably more...

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    I think it's a largely excellent work with a fascinating history. Some musicologists have called it the 'road not taken' by Rachmaninov, due to its failure at its premiere. For a long time the work was considered 'lost', and only reconstructed after WWII when orchestral parts were found in Russia.

    If I remember correctly, Rachmaninov's long-time American collaborator Eugene Ormandy gave the American 'premiere' of the re-discovered work sometime in the 1950's.

    I think for those looking for the usual Rachmaninov--the glorious long-breathed melodies, lush orchestration and full-blown Romanticism of his better known works--might be in for a bit of a shock on hearing this symphony for the first time. It comes right 'at' you from the first terse phrase (a theme suspiciously close to the Catholic "Dies Irae", but actually a portion of a Russian Orthodox chant) and for the most part, doesn't let go at all. Yes, it's an early work and 'imperfect', in spots, but for me the overall impression is that more akin to a work of the Russian "Mighty Five" than Tchiakovsky.

    I think it's the LEAST 'conservative' work Rachmaninov wrote. Had the symphony become a success at its premiere, I'm actually wondering if Rachmaninov's subsequent works would have gone the more 'Romantic' direction that they did (don't get me wrong, I'm GLAD that they did!).

    But that First Symphony, warts and all, is a real grabber in my book. I like it a lot. And even though Rachmaninov supposedly destroyed the score, he kept returning to its mood in some of his subsequent works, even quoting some themes from it in his last work, the "Symphonic Dances"

    Myself, I wouldn't compare it to his later e-minor Symphony--they're not really on the same track. I love both of the works, but for completely different reasons. But for me, the First Symphony (and it's earlier companion orchestral work "Caprice Bohemien") represents a path 'not taken' by Rachmaninov in subsequent works.

    Of the available recordings, I think Ashkenazy's is excellent--he gives a very full-blooded interpretation of the work, and the Coda to the Fourth movement is absolutely Apocalyptic.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by TWhite View Post
    I think it's a largely excellent work with a fascinating history. Some musicologists have called it the 'road not taken' by Rachmaninov, due to its failure at its premiere. For a long time the work was considered 'lost', and only reconstructed after WWII when orchestral parts were found in Russia.

    If I remember correctly, Rachmaninov's long-time American collaborator Eugene Ormandy gave the American 'premiere' of the re-discovered work sometime in the 1950's.

    I think for those looking for the usual Rachmaninov--the glorious long-breathed melodies, lush orchestration and full-blown Romanticism of his better known works--might be in for a bit of a shock on hearing this symphony for the first time. It comes right 'at' you from the first terse phrase (a theme suspiciously close to the Catholic "Dies Irae", but actually a portion of a Russian Orthodox chant) and for the most part, doesn't let go at all. Yes, it's an early work and 'imperfect', in spots, but for me the overall impression is that more akin to a work of the Russian "Mighty Five" than Tchiakovsky.

    I think it's the LEAST 'conservative' work Rachmaninov wrote. Had the symphony become a success at its premiere, I'm actually wondering if Rachmaninov's subsequent works would have gone the more 'Romantic' direction that they did (don't get me wrong, I'm GLAD that they did!).

    But that First Symphony, warts and all, is a real grabber in my book. I like it a lot. And even though Rachmaninov supposedly destroyed the score, he kept returning to its mood in some of his subsequent works, even quoting some themes from it in his last work, the "Symphonic Dances"

    Myself, I wouldn't compare it to his later e-minor Symphony--they're not really on the same track. I love both of the works, but for completely different reasons. But for me, the First Symphony (and it's earlier companion orchestral work "Caprice Bohemien") represents a path 'not taken' by Rachmaninov in subsequent works.

    Of the available recordings, I think Ashkenazy's is excellent--he gives a very full-blooded interpretation of the work, and the Coda to the Fourth movement is absolutely Apocalyptic.

    Tom
    Agree with this post for the most part. Rachmaninoff's 1st symphony reminds me somewhat of Mahler. It is a wonderful work and had the critics not smashed him for it, and had he not taken a long time off from symphony writing after that, imagine what a great body of symphonies we might have.
    "Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Sahara of musical trash."
    --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    Agree with this post for the most part. Rachmaninoff's 1st symphony reminds me somewhat of Mahler. It is a wonderful work and had the critics not smashed him for it, and had he not taken a long time off from symphony writing after that, imagine what a great body of symphonies we might have.

    I agree completely. The First Symphony is a gem and it is difficult to imagine how such a work could have been so poorly received on its premier. The most often told story is that Glazunov, who conducted, was drunk, but that just compounds the mystery.

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    I also like this symphony a great deal

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    I enjoy this symphony, but the 2nd remains his best. There's a lot of symphonic music that Rachmaninoff wrote that is well worth getting to know. The Rock, Prince Rostislov, Caprice Boheme...such wonderful, evocative music written around the time of the First. BTW: not wanting to start any online battles about Russian/English transliterations, but...Rachmaninoff took up US citizenship shortly before he died. He spelled his last name Rachmaninoff in English. It was good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

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