Throughout my life Rachmaninoff and his music have had a special place in my heart. Even though I am Ukrainian and was born in Kiev many decades after the October revolution, I always felt a connection to the old pre-revolutionary Russia (the one Rachmaninoff knew and grew up in) and its spirit, which is always present in his music. My grandmother on my father’s side was representative of this true Russian culture. Her parents passed away when she was a little girl and she grew up with her grandmother, who lived most of her life in Pre-soviet Russia and who was still baring the traditions of the time. She passed it on to her granddaughter (my grandmother) whom I was very close to and spent a lot of time with during my early childhood. She introduced me to Russian literature and cinematography. Before starting school I was already reading Pushkin and Turgenev and saw the Russian film adaptation masterpiece of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. By the time I was 5 years old, I had my first crush – on Andrei Bolkonski.
My first acquaintance with Rachmaninoff was quite funny and also happened during early childhood (I must have been 6 or 7 years old). I remember my father practicing Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 when he asked me to help him at the very end of the finale, where there is a quite complicated rhythmical sequence. He wanted me to play together with him the orchestra part – I was so excited! It took me some time before I could read the rhythm properly, but soon after I was very proudly playing with my father on… pan covers! During this period my father was rehearsing Rachmaninoff all the time at home and I was already then falling in love with the incredible harmonies, powerful emotions and beautiful long melodies which can’t leave your heart indifferent.
The 1st Piano Concerto is a very unique combination of fresh youthfulness and maturity. Rachmaninoff wrote this Concerto at the age of 18, but he revised it 27 years later in the last few months
before leaving Russia forever. The concerto is incredibly beautiful and rich with very fresh, unexpected and beautiful harmonies! His harmonic language here is in a way even more complex than in the 3rd Piano Concerto or Paganini Rhapsody. The music is very emotionally powerful, full of colour and atmospherically imaginative. As an interlude between two large orchestral works, I included four of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes – four little sketches of Russia: Op. 23 No. 1: darker side of Russian soul – deeply tragic, dramatic and hopeless. Op. 32 No. 12: here we see a picture of a snowy landscape, sleds pulled by horses with little Reflections 193 Recording session Photo: Daan van Aalst
10 bells ringing on their necks, and the feeling of light melancholy and a long way ahead. Op. 32 No. 5: This is the prelude of fresh spring air, the scent of lilac which Rachmaninoff adored and the feeling of quiet ecstasy from uniting with nature and beauty. Op. 23 No. 2: Showing the bright side of Russian soul – festive Easter Church bells, jubilation and exultation, generosity and warmth, and a big loving heart! Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was the last big work Rachmaninoff wrote for piano. He wrote it in 1934 at his summer residence “Senar” which is located on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Shortly before recording this album, I was extremely fortunate to visit this special place which is now overseen by the Rachmaninoff Foundation. It was so special to visit Rachmaninoff’s home – everything is left just as if he was still living there. All the furniture, silverware…even sheets and towels are authentic. Of course the biggest treat for me was to try Rachmaninoff’s piano which he bought in 1930 and which is kept in absolutely perfect shape! In fact it is the very piano he composed Paganini Rhapsody on. Being at his studio, sitting at his table, playing on his piano, and diving into the atmosphere of his life – all this was the greatest inspiration I could imagine for recording his music.
This album is like an express train, taking us through the whole of Rachmaninoff’s life. From his student years when he was composing his 1st Piano Concerto through adult years when he wrote the Preludes, his departure to the USA when he revised his Piano Concerto and to the last years of his life when he was spending his summers in Lucerne, Switzerland, composing and scampering around on his speed boat. Rachmaninoff was never able to return to, or even visit his home country after emigrating from Russia, but his homeland always remained in his heart and is always reflected in his music. It was so special to embark on this Rachmaninoff journey with Jared Sacks, who always makes out of every recording session the most inspiring and creative process! I also couldn’t be happier to have the St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra and Modestas Pitrenas as my musical partners for this recording. – it was pure joy making music with them!
Anna FedorovaDownload booklet