Rachmaninov's 2nd

Written by Eric Rasmussen on February 7, 2010.

Orchestra: Sinfonia Varsovia, conducted by Jose Cura

Recording: Sergei Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 (complete version)

When it comes to writing reviews of classical works, you may choose to focus on the history of the work itself, the composer, or the orchestra. When it comes to writing a review of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony, however, my interest lies in the music listening experience itself. Let’s leave the details to the professional critics, and focus on the question: what can Rachmaninov do for you?

The real magic of the 2nd Symphony is it becomes a part of you, inseparable from the feelings and emotions you experienced during the period you listened to it most. The work can quickly become the soundtrack to your life. From the haunting opening to the energetic second movement, the longing, inspiration, and eventual triumph of the third, or the all out fanfare of the fourth, each minute of the music is rich with complex emotions.

In particular, the third movement saw me through a difficult period. The music’s melancholy but hopeful qualities were perfectly in sync with the emotions I felt during an uncertain time in my life, and for me the music holds the fondness and nostalgia of remembering a trying time that led to great things.

The recording and performance quality of this version is excellent, but copy protection makes it difficult to play on Apple computers. I recommend visiting Arkiv Music to learn about different recordings. I also highly recommend Matthew Grasso’s Music for the Extended 7-String Guitar, which features the entire 3rd movement on solo guitar. Hearing it played so personally lends it an even more poignant emotional quality that can’t be missed.

Tagged: music, romantic-era, symphony