Vintage Rachmaninov Recording-Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43.

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano. Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski: Conductor. Recorded December 24, 1934.

This is what the uploader has to say about this wonderful recording:

When my paternal Grandfather died some years ago, I was amazed to discover a collection of Rachmaninoff 78rpm albums among his possessions. What an unexpected delight to find that recordings existed of Rachmaninoff playing his own pieces.

This recording was made in the Camden Church Studio number 2 with 70 musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra and released on Victor Records.

Purists may object to what I’ve done to this recording (pseudo-stereo, EQ adjusted) but I wanted to bring this fantastic work to a wide audience. There is nothing better than hearing a composer play his own music; especially music as grand and romantic as this.

The piece is a set of 24 variations on the twenty-fourth and last of Niccolò Paganini’s Caprices for solo violin, which has inspired works by several composers.

After a brief introduction, the first variation is played before the theme. Paganini’s theme is stated on strings with the piano picking out salient notes, after the first variation. Rachmaninoff likely got the idea of having a variation before the theme from the finale of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony. Variations 2 to 6 recombine elements of the theme. The pauses and rhetorical flourishes for the piano in variation 7 herald a change of tempo and tone. The piano next gravely intones the Dies Irae, the “day of wrath” plainchant from the medieval Mass of the Dead, while the orchestra accompanies with a slower version of the opening motif of the Paganini theme. The piece is one of several by Rachmaninoff to quote the Dies Irae plainchant melody.

The 18th Variation, Guache paints on canvas, by EdwardianPiano.

Rachmaninov Rhapsody.framed