Composer, Orchestera Conductor. He is best remembered for his piano work, including four concertos, the popular "Prelude in C Sharp Minor" and for "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," which he wrote for piano and orchestra. Born in Nizhni Novgorod, Russia, he studied music in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, where he won the gold medal for composition. In 1917, he fled the Russian Revolution, and ended up in the United States. An early convert to the composer Piotr Tchaikovsky, he attended Tchaikovsky's performances including the early Rachmaninoff work, "The Rock" as Tchaikovsky recognized Rachmaninoff as an musical genus. When Tchaikovsky died, Rachmaninoff wrote "Elegiac Trio" in his memory. When his 1896 concert "Symphony No. 1 in D Minor" ended with bad reviews, he stopped writing for the next three years, only picking up a pen after a happy marriage to his cousin, Natalya Satina. His most popular concerto for piano and orchestra is probably "Piano Concerto No. 2." For his first American concert tour, in 1909, he wrote the "Third Piano Concerto", which eventually received public acclaim, although it was slow to come, and some initial reviews were harsh. It was the basis of the film, "Shine.")
When the Russian Revolution came in 1917, he left Russia for good, he moved to the United States, and where he continued to compose. His "Variations of a Theme of Corelli," composed in 1931, was based on the popular Baroque dance theme of La Follia. His "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," from the mid-1930s is a masterwork, especially beautiful and harmonic, yet somewhat avant-garde for Rachmaninoff, and has been used in many film scores, including "Somewhere in Time." Much of his work shows a careful reuse and transformation of thematic material, which characterizes his later works as well. For example, his "First Piano Sonata" (1907), was inspired by Goethe's "Faust," and its three movements are said to portray Faust, Margareta, and Mephistopheles, in this order, which in turn intermix and contrast the doubt and certainty that reflected the struggle for the mind and soul of Faust. He kept a villa in Switzerland, but died in Beverly Hills, California, in 1943. His music has shown up many times in many movies, including such films as "Somewhere in Time" (1980).
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson