Rachmaninov and Russia’s influence

Sergei’s homeland, Russia, had an impact on his musical life throughout his lifetime. He graduated at the age of 19 from the Moscow Conservatory and embarked upon his career as a composer, pianist, and conductor. He had many successes and some failures as most talented people do. Over the years he established himself as a known figure in the music world of the day. While there were ups and downs, for the most part it was a good life – being paid to do what he loved, socializing with friends and colleagues – one I think most of us could enjoy.

Things changed for him in 1917 with the Russian Revolution. He, his wife, and their two little girls left Russia with very little. As part of the Russian aristocracy, he had lost his estate and his livelihood. They spent a year in Scandinavia before deciding to come to America. He had done a successful tour in 1909 and though he had declined invitations to return and turned down job offers that included the position of conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he felt it might be the best place to start over financially. In late 1918, they came to New York. Sergei continued his career in music, primarily as a pianist, until his death in 1943. He only composed 6 pieces after leaving Russia. The last time he conducted in Russia was in early 1917 and he did not conduct again until 1939 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Much of his time was spent performing in order to support his family and rebuild the life his was accustomed to. This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his life in America. By all accounts, he did. He had a good life, built upon his talent and skill. He had many friends and helped many of them financially. He did not become a U.S. citizen until 1943, just before his death. It seems that a portion of his heart was always in Russia.


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