Rachmaninoff composed his first serious opus, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra at the age of 18, while he was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory. Though this early composition is slightly imitative of concertos by Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Grieg, it appeals by its sincere, exited lyricism and passionate impetuousness. Of special note is the first movement with its principal theme full of romantic pinching sadness. The monumental piano cadenza (a virtuosic solo “utterance” inserted by the pianist) at the end of the first movement demonstrates the impressive verve of the young author. Dreamy Andante and the brilliant finale anticipate many scores from the later oeuvre of the composer, who made a priceless contribution to the genre of piano concerto.
Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra was created by Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff in 1909, during one of the most favourable periods in his life, when all his creative doubts had been left behind and the composer was confidently bringing his intentions to life by penning one masterpiece after another. The ancient chants theme, opening the Third Concerto, was Rachmaninov’s ‘lucky find”: there is something indigenously Russian and archaic about this one-voiced tune, as if a story-teller - rhapsode were starting his unhurried narration. “I wanted to ‘sing’ the melody on the piano, as a singer would sing it—and to find a suitable orchestral accompaniment, or rather one that would not muffle this singing.”, said the composer about this piece.
In addition to melodies of incredible beauty, the Third Piano Concerto astounds by the grandiose breadth and monumentality of its richest solo part. Rachmaninoff imbued the piano line to the full, having filled the culminations with “multi-storied” chord layers, the intensity and power of which take the listeners’ breath away. The extraordinary virtuosic and musical demands of the Third Concerto make it one the most challenging works in the piano concerto repertoire, no matter how well-equipped the pianist is. This composition requires not only exceptional technical power, but also the fortitude, allowing the performer to bear the strain from the very first note to the concluding triumphant hymn, praising the victory of those who have overcome all the hurdles.