Unlike the other works on tonight’s program, Rachmaninoff’s two Morceaux de concert have no relation to the baroque. Rather, they belong among the numerous virtuoso works for violin and piano generated during the nineteenth century. The two Morceaux are dated 1893, placing them between two moments of great importance in the composer’s output – the early and enduring C-sharp minor prelude for piano, his first great work for solo piano, and his Symphony No. 1 in D minor, the premiere of which went so badly (the conductor was rumored to be drunk) that Rachmaninoff suffered a breakdown and could not compose for four years.
The two Morceaux show Rachmaninoff’s art at its most appealing. The opening Romance, played at a moderate but not overly sentimental speed, evokes the melancholy usually associated with the composer’s music. The Danse hongroise is all gypsy fire and virtuoso display, an ideal way to close a violin recital.
John Mangum is a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA. He has also annotated programs for the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles Opera, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.