Classical Music | Music for Duo

Sergei Rachmaninov

Romance, Op. 11 No. 5  Play

Westhuizen Duo Duo

Recorded on 04/22/2008, uploaded on 01/24/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Composed in 1894, the Six Morceaux, op. 11 for piano four-hands is among the finer compositions of Rachmaninoff’s youthful period following his studies at the Moscow Conservatory. The opening Barcarolle in G minor is dark and mysterious, its gently rocking rhythms depicting a gondolier navigating the Venetian canals beneath a moonlit sky. The piece builds to a dazzling climax with rapid figurations atop the rich and powerful chords so typical of Rachmaninoff’s piano music. These same figurations return to close the piece in a much brighter mood than it began. The following Scherzo in D major is a sprightly and brilliant composition with a relentless rhythmic drive. There is no actual Trio section, but instead a coquettish secondary theme that momentarily hold the Scherzo’s impetuosity at bay.

Occupying the third position in the set is the Chanson Russe, a set of variations on an unknown folk song. The piece begins quietly but builds quickly into a majestic variation in which the theme is heard against a rushing counterpoint of sixteenth notes. From this climax, the music recedes through a quiet variation only to be roused again at the final cadence. Next, the Valse is reminiscent of Chopin in its amalgamation of different waltz tunes. However, the style is certainly that of Rachmaninoff and possesses a power that is at odds with both the graceful Viennese dance and the ruminations of Chopin. Yet, the Valse is not wholly without elegance.

Fifth in the set is the Romance. In C minor, it is a passionate piece with a particularly poignant principal theme that seems to anguish over some grief. Brief moments of light shine across the otherwise dismal canvas of the Romance, but never break the otherwise gloomy air. Lastly, Slava! (Glory) closes the set. A set of variations based on the Russian chant used by Mussorgsky in Boris Godunov, it provides the opus 11 with a majestic and towering conclusion.      Joseph DuBose


Romance, Op. 11 No. 5            Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff's life was troubled from an early age: his father drank heavily, and his parents separated when he was a child. It was also during this time that his sister died. The composer was plagued with depression throughout his life, and actually suffered a mental breakdown after the failure of his First Symphony in 1897. The Six Pieces for Piano Duet, op. 11 were written in 1894, just after his studies at the Moscow Conservatory. The Romance, in C minor, is a beautiful example of Rachmaninoff's melancholy and lyricism. The Scherzo is in D Major, and is one of the most exciting movements of the set. It is very playful and virtuosic, clearly evincing a youthful Rachmaninoff in a rare playful mood.    Westhuizen Duo


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Performances by same musician(s)

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