Maxim Philippov plays Rachmaninov – Live Concert – CC4322


“Philippov’s repertoire is extensive, and his compelling style captures an audience, placing him amongst leading favourites”

“…fresh, powerful and charged with those intuitive emotional qualities that characterise his playing…”


Sergei Vassilyevich Rachmaninov was bom in Novgorod Province, Russia in 1873 and died in Beverly Hills, California, USA in 1943 a few days short of his 70th birthday.

Rachmaninov’s parents separated following his father’s dissipation of the family fortune and young Sergei lived with his mother in a flat in St Petersburg, where he was enrolled in the Conservatory. He was not a diligent pupil, preferring to spend time ice-skating or stealing rides on trams. His truancy became a major concern and, on the recommendation of his cousin, the pianist Alexander Siloti, Rachmaninov was sent to Moscow to board with the teacher Zverev, renowned for his strictness. The move was successful; Zverev moved freely in Moscow musical circles and Rachmaninov soon became acquainted with Tchaikovsky, who forecast a brilliant career for him.

Graduating from Moscow Conservatory a year ahead of schedule and securing the Great Gold Medal for his examination piece, the opera “Aleko”, Rachmaninov became a free artist. Although an able pianist he saw composition as his true vocation and for a while it seemed that nothing could go wrong for the young man. Then came disaster; the premiere of his 1st Symphony was given in St Petersburg in the presence of hostile critics by an ill-prepared orchestra under a disinterested (some say inebriated) Glazunov. The performance was a fiasco and Rachmaninov’s confidence was so undermined that for several years he was unable to compose. During this time he took up the baton and regularly conducted opera as well as orchestral concerts.

Only after hypnotherapy from Dr Nikolai Dahl did Rachmaninov regain his confidence and produce his 2nd Piano Concerto (dedicated to Dahl), which has become one of the most popular concertos ever written. Subsequent works included two operas, songs, the great Vespers Mass, two more Symphonies, a choral symphony (The Bells), the hugely popular 3rd Piano Concerto, a 4th Concerto, the Paganini Rhapsody and solo piano works including two sonatas and sets of preludes and etudes-tableaux.

During the 1917 revolution Rachmaninov decided to leave Russia and took his wife and daughters with him on a hastily arranged tour of Scandinavia, where he performed as pianist. They were never to return to their homeland. After a short time in Europe the Rachmaninovs left for America. Offered the post of conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Rachmaninov declined, knowing his repertoire as a conductor would take too long to build to satisfy his own demanding standards. Instead he concentrated on his pianistic abilities and became one of the pre-eminent pianists of his day and one of the great pianists of all time. For more than thirty years he performed throughout the USA and paid frequent visits to Europe, building a home on the banks of Lake Lucerne which, sadly, was abandoned when war broke out. His remaining years were spent in America where he maintained the taxing schedule of a touring virtuoso until he was too ill to continue.

At the end of his life, Rachmaninov quoted an old Russian proverb — referring to his triple career as pianist, conductor and composer — “I have hunted three hares, how can I be sure I have caught one of them?” With hindsight, we may answer that Rachmaninov did indeed “catch his hares.” He was one of the great pianists and all who saw him conduct are agreed that his talents in that direction were equally fine. As a composer, Rachmaninov was, for many years, discounted by critics as a pianist who also composed, an anachronism whose broad romantic ideas had no place in the twentieth century. Despite this, the public have always loved his music and continue to do so. As the critic Harold C Schonberg once said “If Rachmaninov’s music had nothing to say, it would have gone away a long time ago!” John Lockyer.

The Rachmaninov Society was formed in 1990 and has members in more than 20 countries with pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy as President. The Society publishes a quarterly Newsletter and actively promotes interest in the life and music of Sergei Rachmaninov.

The five Morceaux de fantaisie op.3 were Rachmaninov’s first published works for solo piano; and one piece in the set immediately established his international fame. The popularity of the Prelude in C sharp minor, written in 1892 at the age of 19, preceded Rachmaninov wherever he went. Amateur and professional pianists in their thousands were drawn ineluctably to its brooding melancholy and to its bold, passionate gestures — and to the fact that, like Rachmaninov’s piano music in general, it was so idiomatically conceived for the keyboard both in terms of technique and in its colouring. Nor was the Prelude a mere nine-day wonder: it was endlessly arranged for different instruments (including versions for jazz band, banjo, guitar and trombone quartet), and audiences everywhere cried out for Rachmaninov himself to play it as an encore at all his recitals.

In the Moments musicaux op. 16 Rachmaninov again asserted, and even strengthened the personal accent he had voiced in the Morceaux de fantaisie. Most of these six pieces, composed in 1896 while he was awaiting the premiere of his First Symphony, are more demanding of the pianist’s hands, more mercurial in pianism. However, the third piece — Andante cantabile in B minor —

is largely chordal in texture, a study in reflectiveness expressed through characteristic, arch-like melody, its motivic ideas rising and falling with Rachmaninov’s subtle use of dynamic and harmonic shading.

The two mature sets of preludes show Rachmaninov refining his earlier characteristics with greater economy. Like Chopin, Rachmaninov wrote a prelude in all the major and minor keys. First came the C sharp minor op.3 no.2, to which he added the 10 Preludes op.23 and the 13 Preludes op.32 – -24 in all. (There is an additional, early F major Prelude, but this is not generally admitted to the canon.) The sumptuous, rich lyricism of the Second Piano Concerto (1900-01) is echoed in the op.23 set of preludes, though each piece possesses an individual mood of its own. Most of op.23 was written in 1903, a couple of years after the concerto, though the well-known G minor, no.5 — with its martial start and soaring central section — is dated 1901, even closer to the completion of the concerto. The ear can readily appreciate the relationship between concerto and prelude in the E flat major, no.6, with its subdued, warm, broad theme. The D major, no.4 refers back to Rachmaninov’s earlier melodic ideas, but now graced with more intricate figuration. The stormy B flat major, no.2 is, in a sense, Rachmaninov’s answer to Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary’ Study, with its restless left-hand opening and surging energy.

In some of his op.32 preludes, all composed in 1910, Rachmaninov’s language becomes more elusive — and even more intriguing — as, for instance, in the shimmering, shifting, almost impressionistic G sharp minor, no. 12. This was a direction in which Rachmaninov’s piano-writing was leading, as is borne out by the Etudes-tableaux op.39 of 1916-17, works which — as in the C minor, no.l — are perfectly focused miniature tone-poems, crystallizing a particular emotion. We may not always know what the external stimulus was, but, by means of texture, dynamics and all the crafts and inspiration of which Rachmaninov now had control, vivid images — whatever we may choose them to be — are miraculously conjured up.

All the music of Rachmaninov’s later years — after he left Russia in 1917 — is marked by a crispness of style and even more economical honing. He never renounces romanticism, but there is a new zest to his art. The Variations on a Theme of Corelli op. 42 (1931) — actually based not on a theme of Corelli but on the Portuguese ‘La folia’ tune which Corelli had used in one of his sonatas — have a clarity, pungency of harmony, incisiveness of rhythm, a “new sparkle”, as one of Rachmaninov’s friends remarked. The same goes for the revised version of the Second Sonata, which Maxim Philippov plays on this disc. Rachmaninov wrote it originally in 1913, revising it in 1931. In the process, it lost none of its Russian passion, but, as Rachmaninov said, he felt there was too much going on in the earlier score and — although the first version has its own dramatic credentials and appeal — here he made its three linked movements more concise and to the point. © Geoffrey Norris.

**Artists Website

Maxim Philippov:  Two months prior to the recording of this Commemorative Issue CD Maxim Philippov was awarded a special Rachmaninov Prize by the composer’s grandson, Alexandre, to commemorate the anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninov’s life.

Thereafter followed a thirteen-venue tour of England which marked the anniversary year with Philippov’s personal tribute to the composer he greatly admires.

Bom 1972, Philippov studied at the Central Music School in Moscow and at Moscow State Conservatoire. International prizes include awards in London (1990), Portugal (1991), Tel-Aviv (1992), and in 1993 he received three major prizes: at the International Piano Competition in Moscow, the Harveys Leeds International Pianoforte Competition and the Rachmaninov Prize. International engagements include performances in Russia, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Portugal and Israel.

Review: I – Daily Telegraph

Philippov’s repertoire is extensive, and his compelling style captures an audience, placing him amongst leading favourites.

“…fresh, powerful and charged with those intuitive emotional qualities that characterise his playing…”