Today I finished listening my way through Rachmaninoff’s collected works. I think Rachmaninoff is best listened to with full attention; I’ve attended several concerts of his works and been absolutely enthralled (particularly at concerts where I had a good view of the pianist in performance). But a lot of his music is rather subtle and so if one is distracted (say, by editing articles), then much of the subtlety fades and different pieces become indistinguishable — a part of a flow of piano music in the back of one’s mind.

I’m contrasting the experience to listening to Tchaikovsky, whose works I made my way through earlier in the summer while finishing revisions to my diss. Tchaikovsky’s music is the sort that interrupts one’s concentration, refusing to fade into the background.

I don’t mean for either description to reflect on the quality of the two musicians and their works — I adore both Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, and both benefit from being listened to with full attention (obviously). But they make for very different listening.


I also came across Rachmaninoff’s piano roll recordings, which are fun and a little bit uncanny to watch.

9 October 2014

(Tchaikovsky does win for opera though: hard to contest Eugene Onegin.)



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