1891: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor

WEDNESDAY, February 5, 2020

 Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor, age 19

The best modern recording I can find…

This is an exciting young pianist. Anna Fedorova will be 30 years old next month, and for a pianist that’s still very young. I ran into this performance by accident, and she has a unique playing style. Note she is by no means the only female top player here, because there are some standout women soloists in the orchestra. I like best the way she stretches lines. She has an amazingly effective Romantic style. I don’t like her excess body movement, which is frankly unnecessary, and it will hinder as she ages. But it does not effect  her playing, so I’ll accept it.

Rachmaninov playing (April 1, 1873, – March 28, 1943)…

This recording was made between 1939 and 1941. I don’t believe you could possible guess that he did this not long before his death. Unfortunately the sound is nothing like what we have today, but the playing is an historical document.


Sergei Rachmaninoff composed his Piano Concerto No. 1 in F♯ minor, Op. 1, in 1891, at age 18.

He finished composing and scoring it. The premiere of the first movement was March 17th, 1892 at the Moscow Conservatoire. The concerto was conducted by Vasily Safonov, the director and a very famous Russian teacher. Rachmaninov played the solo part and may have never played it again in the original form, although Siloti, to whom it was dedicated, continued to program it and perform it. Siloti was a loyal friend, 10 years older than Rachmaninov, and he was perhaps the favorite pupil of Liszt.

Back to Grieg…

Rachmaninoff’s used the Grieg Piano Concerto as a model for his new concerto, and this is where we see how Schumann inspired Grieg, then Grieg inspired Rachmaninov. Giants stand on the shoulders of other giants.

An important revision, much later…

What most people do not know – and I did not know – is that he revised this in 1917. He made the orchestral part cleaner and more effective and “thinned” the piano part to make them fit better with orchestration. In short, the final form we know today is a mixture of a very youthful Rachmaninov, his ideas, and a much older and more mature composer (the revisions.)

He changed a youthful composition into a concise, spirited work and in fact was annoyed that it never became a great favorite of the general public.

1 thought on “1891: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor

  1. I am often fascinated by how pianists a long time ago – where we manage to get recordings – played differently than today, and yet in all eras the playing is true to the music. I wonder how they will play in 2120.

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