S. Rachmaninov "Rhapsody on the theme of Paganini"
Rachmaninoff always differed special musical handwriting. This quality allowed him to make his own contribution to the work known to all. The ability to correctly synthesize various genres allowed the composer to update the musical content of Paganini’s 24th Caprice. Learn interesting facts, listen to the best performances, as well as read about the musical image of the composition on our page.
History of creation
The writing refers to the late period of creativity. During the creation of the Russian and Soviet composer has long lived abroad. For many years the musician did not compose anything, having chosen the way of the performer to earn money. Long lessons at the piano tired and drowned out composer talent. There was simply no time or energy left for an essay. In 1931, together with his family, Rachmaninoff settled in Switzerland. After a long break, the musician turns to the creators of the past for inspiration. The figure of Paganini, his subtlety of musical thought riveted the attention of the Soviet composer.
For several years, the composer worked on the composition. The goal he set for himself was to combine modern jazz improvisations with a classic romantic work. In 1934, the work was completed.
Initially, Rachmaninov wanted other pianists to try to perform his work. Nevertheless, the composer’s exactingness to perform did not allow such an outcome to be allowed that the pianist could not cope with the task. Then Rachmaninov said that he could not betray the stage, playing less, it was better for him to die on the stage.
Indeed, the performance with this program was hard for the musician. Because of the semantic gravity of the music, its meaning, Sergey Vasilyevich was very worried about the acceptance by the public of the composition. But his experiences were in vain, because the public literally fell in love with such an unusual and colorful composition. The premiere took place on November 7, 1934. The piano part was entrusted to Sergey Rakhmaninov. The Philadelphia Orchestra was performed by the brilliant and famous Leopold Stokowski. Immediately after the premiere, the work gained recognition and became popular in the circles of high art. To this day, the variations do not lose their relevance.
- The composition consists of 24 variations. The most popular and beloved among listeners is the 18th variation, it is in it that the musical image acquires the greatest dynamics.
- The Paganini theme is a popular musical material not only among listeners, but also among composers. Before the composer, variations with the basis in the form of the theme of the great violinist were used by such brilliant musicians as Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt. Even the famous musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber tried his own strength in variations on the Caprice.
- One of the most famous performances is considered the author. Audio and video recordings have been preserved, including from the premiere, in which Sergey Rakhmaninov brilliantly performs his own composition.
- The work includes the famous motif "Dies irae", which is a symbol of rock and death.
- The tonality is in A minor.
- All variations are performed by attaca, that is, without interruption. The total duration of the rhapsody is approximately 30 minutes.
- At present, variations on the theme of Paganini Rakhmaninov are more popular than the original violin version.
- The most famous performers of the Rhapsody on the Paganini Theme can be considered such great pianists as Arthur Rubinstein, Mikhail Pletnev, and Vladimir Ashkenazi.
- The eighteenth variation was often used in Hollywood, not only in the film industry, but also in popular music.
The rhapsody or variations on the Paganini theme are one of the brightest works for piano and orchestra in the composer's work.
It is worth noting that in the XX century, Sergei Vasilyevich was considered one of the largest virtuosos performers, which also brought him closer to the mysterious Nikollo Paganini. The image of the musician of the Romantic era, his depth and mysticism - all this was reflected in the 24 caprices for the violin. The expressive theme of 16 bars is remembered from the first time. Even in the modern world among the performers is considered the pinnacle of mastery performance of such a complex from a technical point of view of composition, not to mention the 18-19 centuries. For the ability to play the virtuoso, Niccolo was considered the person who sold his soul to the devil. Feeling not only the characteristic features of the epoch, but also for the personality of Paganini, Rachmaninov tried as precisely as possible with the help of symbols to display everything fantastic and magical than music was filled with. One of the symbols is the motif "Dies irae", which is often heard in the works of the composer. It is a symbol not only of suffering, but also of death, horror. Negative coloring allows to reveal new semantic facets of the composition.
It is no accident and appeal to the genre of rhapsody. In musical art, the main features of the rhapsody are impromptu, free presentation and re-creation of a specific era. In the course of genre evolution, this concept was brought closer to the poem.
As mentioned earlier, the work includes 24 variations. Each variation carries a certain genre load. The image is constantly transformed and modified, which is characteristic of variations of the romantic period. Nevertheless, it can be noted that the variation cycle is clearly divided into three sections:
- C 1 - 11 variations - this is an exposition section, which is characterized by minor changes in the theme. The local culmination is the 11th variation, which is a sample of the Rachmaninov style.
- From 12-18 variations, one can trace the active development of musical development. The climax is achieved in one of the most beautiful variations - №18.
- From 19-24 variation, the final stage begins. Even by tempo notation, it can be understood that passions gradually subside, silence and humility come to replace them.
A wide emotional amplitude from nostalgia to devilish passions makes the listener have different feelings. The development of a dynamic throughout the composition does not allow a person to get bored while listening.
Use of Rhapsody in Cinema
The rhapsody on the theme of Paganini is a work widely known in many European countries. Already 19 years after the creation of this work, it was used in cinema. Today, the relevance of music is not lost, so filmmakers are actively using the musical work in the film industry. You can hear Rakhmaninov’s "Variations on the Paganini Theme" in the following films:
- Right wife (2015)
- Live inside (2014)
- Nikolina & Tomislav (2013)
- Paganini: The Devil Fiddler (2013)
- Byron Stories (2010)
- Ronin (1998)
- Sabrina (1995)
- Groundhog Day (1993)
- To Die Again (1991)
- Singapore Sling (1990)
- Somewhere in Time (1980)
- The Third Love Story (1953)
"Rhapsody or variations on the theme of Paganini" is a masterpiece of the culture of the 20th century, preserving its own value in our time. The intertwining of the genres, the exceptional vision of the image, the understanding of the content, the opportunity to experiment, allowed Sergei Rakhmaninov to create a unique essay.