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About this Piece

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) is regarded as one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century and, like Sowerby, was often criticized for his old-fashioned, romantic style. The Symphonic Dances was his last major orchestral work. It was composed in 1940 while Rachmaninoff was something of a nomad. Having left Europe in 1939, he did not settle in America until 1942. (He eventually moved to Beverly Hills, not far from Vladimir Horowitz, Igor Stravinsky, and Arnold Schoenberg.) The first three notes of the opening movement of the Symphonic Dances form the basis of much that is to come. They are quickly transformed into a slightly demonic, harmonically unstable dance reminiscent of Rachmaninoff’s fellow Russian, Prokofiev. —Thomas Neenan