Rachmaninoff, Serge (1873 – 1943)

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian virtuoso pianist, composer, and conductor of the late-Romantic period. Born into a musical family, Rachmaninoff took up the piano at age four. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 and had composed several piano and orchestral pieces by this time. In 1897, following the critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. After the Russian Revolution (1917), Rachmaninoff and his family left Russia for the United States, first in New York City. Demanding tour schedules as a concert pianist caused his output as composer to slow tremendously; between 1918 and 1943, he completed just six compositions, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. In 1942, Rachmaninoff moved to Beverly Hills, California. One month before his death from advanced melanoma, Rachmaninoff acquired American citizenship.

Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and his use of rich orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff’s compositional output, and through his own skills as a performer he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument. (source: Wikipedia)


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Blessed Art Thou, O Lord
BB BE 100401 – $38.00
6′ 30″ – intermediate

Originally for SATB chorus, this is a beautiful work from the Vespers (Opus 37, No 9).

(423.11) 3 B flat Trumpets, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba


Etude Tableaux Opus 39 No 6 – Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
BB BE 120202 – $38.00
2′ 30″ – virtuoso

These etudes were intended to be “musical evocations of external visual stimulae.” Rachmaninoff did not disclose what inspired each piece, stating, “I don’t believe in the artist that discloses too much of his images. Let them paint for themselves what it most suggests.”

Etude No. 6 is known as Little Red Riding Hood. Low brass play the part of the big bad wolf – trumpets and horns play the poor frightened little girl.

(423.11) Piccolo in b flat, E flat Trumpet, B flat Trumpet, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba


Etude Tableaux Opus 39 No 9 – Russian Bells
BB BE 110104 – $38.00
3′ 45″ – virtuoso

Rachmaninoff had big – no, huge hands.  Brass, anyone? Brilliant!  And fun.

(423.11) Piccolo in b flat, E flat Trumpet, B flat Trumpet, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba


Vocalise – Romance Opus 34, No 14
BB BE 120203 – $38.00
5′ 50″ – difficult

Rachmaninoff’s famous vocalise for brass – Not arranged as a feature for any particular instrument but rather the lovely melody is shared by several. Works beautifully for brass ensemble

(423.11) E flat Trumpet, B flat Trumpet (doubles piccolo), 2 Flugelhorns, 2 Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba