Rachmaninov: Music for two pianos

Rachmaninov: Music for two pianos

Howard Shelley (piano), Hilary Macnamara (piano)


As a child, one of Rachmaninov’s earliest memories was of playing duets at the piano with his grandfather, Arkady Rachmaninov who, some forty years earlier, had been a pupil in Russia of the Irishman John Field. When the twelve year-old Sergei Rachmaninov became a pupil of Nikolai Zverev at the Moscow Conservatoire at the insistence of his cousin Alexander Siloti (himself a pupil of Liszt), he played two-piano transcriptions at Zverev’s home to the most eminent musicians of the day. Tchaikovsky heard the young Rachmaninov at one of these evenings and was apparently much impressed by the boy’s transcription of the older composer’s own ‘Manfred’ Symphony for piano duet; unfortunately this transcription has not survived. In the days before broadcasting and recordings of any kind, arrangements for two pianists (either at one or two pianos) were often the only means by which it was possible to become familiar with orchestral music. With Rachmaninov’s own great gifts as a pianist, it was a natural progression therefore, when his own composing inclinations became manifest, that music for this medium should have formed an important part of his expression.

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