Not only is today Classical Sunday; it’s also that dreaded day when we move the clocks an hour ahead for the spring-forward edition of the absurd, twice-annual time change (which, though only a move of an hour, seems to mess up my internal clock and wake-up time for weeks). We also babysat the older of our two local grandsons until late last night… so it was about 3:00 am (on “new” time) when I fell asleep. In other words, today is a fairly lazy day, though there’s a fair bit of snow to shovel after a late-winter storm that came through yesterday. (It’s also “pizza and movie night” day, since Sweety and I didn’t do that yesterday.)
With such a day as a backdrop, I’m featuring the much-beloved and extraordinary Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5, by the Russian pianist, conductor and composer Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943, also written as Sergei Rachmaninoff). When I first started listening to classical music during the 1970s and ’80s, Rachmaninov was one of my favourite composers, and I still love listening to his work. His music is so rich, filled with intricate sounds and many moods. It’s no wonder he is considered one of the finest composers of the Romantic era. Today’s piece is a beautiful example of his artistry.
The Prelude in G Minor is one in ten preludes that make up Opus 23, a set completed in 1903; Rachmaninov played Nos. 1, 3 and 5 at a premiere in Moscow, Russia, that same year.
Rachmaninov completed writing this particular prelude in 1901, the same year he finished his magnificent and highly successful Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Before composing the concerto and preludes, he suffered through four years of depression after a psychological breakdown that followed the abysmal premiere of his first symphony.
The Prelude is lyrical and flowing yet so complex in parts that it sounds rather symphonic, and it’s hard to believe all the sounds come from just one person and one piano. In the music, I sense feelings of perseverance, strength, hope and self-assuredness, and perhaps Rachmaninov’s emergence from long years of misery and torment.
Russian-born German pianist Olga Scheps (b. 1986), who I’ve featured twice on this blog, plays a stunning rendition of the prelude. Hers is one of the few YouTube posts I could find with a video of a live performance of this piece. Her artful, focused and meticulous handiwork on the piano is remarkable.
Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.
Here’s the video from the Olga Scheps YouTube channel of the piano virtuoso performing in 2012 at the Berlin Philharmonie:
With warmest wishes,
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