Sergey Rachmaninoff , in full Sergey Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff , Rachmaninoff also spelled Rakhmaninov , or Rachmaninov , (born March 20 [April 1, New Style], 1873, Oneg, near Semyonovo, Russia—died March 28, 1943, Beverly Hills , California , U.S.), composer who was the last great figure of the tradition of Russian Romanticism and a leading piano virtuoso of his time. He is especially known for his piano concerti and the piece for piano and orchestra titled Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934).

In his youth, Rachmaninoff was subject to emotional crises over the success or failure of his works as well as his personal relationships. Self-doubt and uncertainty carried him into deep depressions, one of the most severe of which followed the failure, on its first performance in March 1897, of his Symphony No. 1 in D Minor. The symphony was poorly performed, and the critics condemned it. During this period, while brooding over an unhappy love affair, he was taken to a psychiatrist, Nikolay Dahl, who is often credited with having restored the young composer’s self-confidence, thus enabling him to write the Piano Concerto No. 2 (which is dedicated to Dahl).

The one notable composition of Rachmaninoff’s second period of residence in Moscow was his choral symphony The Bells (1913), based on Konstantin Balmont’s Russian translation of the poem by Edgar Allan Poe . This work displays considerable ingenuity in the coupling of choral and orchestral resources to produce striking imitative and textural effects.


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