Vladimir Ashkenazy plays Rachmaninov's Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39

A film by Christopher Nupen

Certain chapters are not available.
Thank you for your understanding.


Program notes

Russian by birth and training, Icelandic by adoption, the great pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy gives a breathtaking all-Rachmaninov recital in 1985 featuring two of the composer’s greatest 20th-century solo-piano masterpieces. 

The program begins with the 1931 Variations on a theme of Corelli, the only work Rachmaninov would compose for solo piano after his exile from Russia because of the Russian Revolution in 1917. A catalyst for the later Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, the piece’s variations can be divided into four groups to create a sonata-like structure, although the composer himself didn’t always follow this structure in performances: as he put it, “I was guided by the coughing of the audience. Whenever the coughing increased, I would skip the next variation. Whenever there was no coughing, I would play them in proper order.” Ashkenazy continues the evening with a selection of the composer’s Études-tableaux, Op. 39, a dark and richly complex book of studies completed in 1917 that pose considerable technical challenges even for the most virtuosic of pianists.

A closer look: featured composers

Further listening: featured works

Appears in

More info