In 1917, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) found himself in what would become permanent exile from his homeland, and never again approached the genre of song. For him, song composition involved a deep connection to the culture, poets, and singers of his native Russia. When this link was tragically severed, so too was his desire to express his heritage in the medium of song. Fortunately, Rachmaninoff composed some 80 songs between the years 1890 and 1917, and his development as a song composer closely parallels his broader artistic development.
The songs on this program are from the 1890s, and they show how Rachmaninoff was able to carry on and develop the romans tradition which he felt was handed down through Tchaikovsky. In these songs, as in Tchaikovsky’s, it is the melody of the vocal line which is generally given the responsibility of conveying the emotions in the text. Not surprisingly however, Rachmaninoff’s piano accompaniments are more elaborate than the simple elegance of Tchaikovsky’s, and his powerful and colorful piano parts greatly serve to give an added emotional dimension within which his vocal lines are free to explore wild passions. Rachmaninoff’s elevation of the role of the piano often helps to convey many layers of the text, sometimes complementing, sometimes commenting on the vocal line, thus creating on a dramatic and emotional level a more equal partnership between the two elements.
-- Ryan Dorin is currently working towards completion of a Ph.D. in Music Composition at New York University. He is currently composing and drawing an animated opera.