After decades spent struggling to support his family as a touring concert pianist with little time for composition, the mid-1930s saw his creative energies rekindled, producing his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934) and the masterful Symphony No. 3 in A Minor (1936). Brilliant interpreter of the Russian repertoire, Evgeny Svetlanov leads a moving performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third, one of the last great symphonic works of late Romanticism.
By the time Rachmaninoff wrote his Third Symphony, the composer-pianist-conductor had lived through years of difficult exile and melancholic homesickness. Caricatured by fellow composer and Russian exile Stravinsky as a “six-and-a-half foot scowl”, Rachmaninoff and his music appeared to some to be obsolete and hopelessly Romantic in face of the changes Western music had undergone in the early decades of the 20th century. Yet the composer’s Third Symphony is striking for its revolutionary treatment of the symphonic form and experimentation with color, rhythm, and instrumentation, with passages that go so far as to call to mind a sort of musical expressionism.
The Evgeny Svetlanov Foundation has kindly provided this program to us as part of its celebrations of the maestro's 90th birthday.