The Apprehensive Symphonist

Classical Academy | Composers | Romantic PeriodOrchestral Music


Sergei Rachmaninoff had many doubts over his abilities as a symphonist. No wonder, really; his Symphony no. 1 had met with disasterous responses when it premiered in 1897 - criticism so harsh that the composer plumetted into fits of depression. Despite having subsequently written and performed his Piano Concerto No. 2 (a huge hit and still one of the most popular pieces of classical music of all time), he remained apprehensive, concerned about the quality of his writing. 


Such modesty in a man of such genius could only produce something truly great. Unhappy with the draft of his Symphony no. 2, he worked hard at it, revising the score for months on end to produce a tremendous feat of musical composition, a towering masterpiece at around an hour in length. This time, at the premiere in 1908, with the baton in the hands of Rachmaninoff himself, the piece met with the great success deserved by a composer of his stature. In fact, it earned him a second Glinka Award (the first having come with the second Piano Concerto).


When listening to this symphony, it's hard to imagine such an apprehensive man behind its conception. Dedicated to his teacher, Sergei Taneyev, an enormous musical influence on Rachmaninoff and his contemporary Russian composers, the polyphonic interweaves in the music stem directly from this master. Enjoy this recording of the piece in its full, unadulterated version.