Classical Music | Soprano

Sergei Rachmaninov

Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne (Sing not to me, beautiful maiden), Op. 4, No. 4  Play

Sarah-Jane Brandon Soprano
Nathan Brandwein Piano

Recorded on 10/24/2011, uploaded on 10/24/2011

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Composed during 1890-92, the Six Songs, op. 4 was Rachmaninoff’s first collection of songs to be published. The years of its composition, however, were difficult for the composer. He was facing the end of his tenure at the Moscow Conservatory—taking his final piano examinations in the spring of 1891 and receiving his diploma in May of the following year. His living arrangements with two other piano students, however, made it difficult for him to find quiet moments to compose. He eventually found the quietude he needed when he took up residence at his family’s country estate. There many of his most famous works were to be composed.

“Sing not to me, beautiful maiden” is the fourth song of the opus 4 set. The text for the song, written by Alexander Pushkin in 1828, had already been set by several other composers, including Balakirev, Glinka, and Rimsky-Korsakov, when Rachmaninoff composed his setting in 1892. Rachmaninoff begins the song with a lengthy piano introduction in A minor, featuring a plaintive melody that descends slowly from the dominant to the tonic. Despite a poignant chromatic line hidden within the middle voice of the piano texture, Rachmaninoff shuns an authentic cadence to bring the introduction to a close with a form of plagal cadence colored with the tones of the Aeolian mode, heightening the song’s elegiac mood. The voice enters in a recitative like manner, but then sings its distraught melody, born out of melodic ideas taken from the introduction, atop a rich and luscious piano accompaniment. The piano here, however, takes on a role equally important to that of the voice and together both weave a delicate texture of contrapuntal interplay that only adds to the poignancy of Pushkin’s text. At the close of the song, the voice highlights and embellishes the chromatic line that earlier had only served as an unassuming countermelody to the plaintive opening melody. As the voice concludes its mournful song, the piano hovers dolefully around the tonic as the underpinning chromatic harmonies slowly bring the piece to close.       Joseph DuBose

Steans Music Institute

The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.