This week’s sequence is a beautiful romantic melody from Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s 2nd piano concerto.
This concerto is such an incredible piece of music. The piano solo is ridiculously virtuosic, and the orchestra parts are also well crafted. I love the gentle horn solo in the first movement (almost used it for this week’s sequence!), as well as the fugue in the 3rd movement.
Rachmaninoff’s melodies can stick in your head for weeks on end, and this one is probably my favorite. His melodies are so catchy, that they often are repurposed by modern musicians.
My parents have heard me play this piece multiple times, and my Dad loves to say, “That second movement sounds just like Eric Carmen‘s All By Myself!” Well, turns out my Dad was spot on! Carmen LOVED Rachmaninoff’s music, and even had to pay royalties to Sergei because the concerto was still under copyright. Check out the comparison below.
What is Romantic?
As I worked on this sequence, I was trying to figure out what makes this sound “romantic”? Is it a compositional technique, is it a way of playing, is it simply the time period?
I’m no musicologist, but I think the answer is a bit of each.
This melody has some nice chromatic motion that gives it a sense of yearning and longing that is central to the idea of romanticism and feeling. There are a few mini peaks to enjoy on the way up to the most climactic moment, and this lengthy structure creates space for the player to be expressive. Lastly, this piece was premiered in 1901, right as the romantic period was wrapping up before the transition to the more serious & heavy modern period.
Strive for a rich sound and be sure to sing on the long notes! This melody is first introduced by the violas and oboe, so make sure to start each slur group with a clean articulation to represent a change in bow direction.
Have fun with this! Explore the extremes of phrase shaping and vibrato. Try making all of your music with shapes, try making all of the music with vibrato, try putting them together! Be creative. Add some inspiration to your playing by imagining you are playing for someone you love.
Excerpt begins at 27:48
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