1 April 1873 - 28 March 1943
Sergei Rachmaninov (Rachmaninoff) was a Russian Composer, Pianist and Conductor. He moved to Moscow when he was twelve to live and study with the strict disciplinarian Nikolay Zverev. The near-military atmosphere forced Rachmaninov to transfer to the senior division of the Moscow Conservatory, taking more of his classes outside the Zverev household. Here composing without the constant distraction of his housemates' practice proved impossible so he asked for a private room. Zverev obliged by kicking him out.
By this time Rachmaninov was studying piano with his cousin Alexander Ziloti and composing prolifically. Further hardships ensued but he was already gaining favour from several musicians and critics including Tchaikovsky, who attended the performance of his graduation piece and was meant to have conducted some of his early works. A sequence of unfortunate circumstances including one of his better pieces being conducted by a the composer Glazunov,while drunk, lead to bad press and constant criticism. This discouraged and depressed Rachmaninov so severely that he did not compose anything for three years.
He consulted everyone from Leo Tolstoy to a medical hypnotist, the latter proving successful enough to restore the creativity of the young composer. A better spell was to follow and included his marriage to his cousin Natalya Satina, and the birth of his two children. It was around this time, in 1900 to be precise, that he wrote his immensely popular Second Piano Concerto. This was followed in 1909 by the Third Piano Concerto which was written for the pianist's American tour. Unfortunately it was nowhere near as popular at the time as it is today, having been met with mild acclaim and a degree of criticism, possibly due to its beauty being more subtle than that of its predecessor.
Following the October Revolution he moved to Scandinavia, and eventually, in 1918, to New York taking his family with him. This was to be his main residence for most of his life with the exception of short spells in Paris where he founded a publishing firm. There was a period of creative silence until 1926 when he wrote the Piano Concerto no.4, followed by only a handful of works over the next 15 years. During this period he was active as a pianist in the UK and in the States. He remains renowned as a pianist possessing remarkable precision, rhythmic drive, legato and clarity of texture and for the broad design of his performances.