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Rachmaninoff and His World

Edited by Philip Ross Bullock

One of the most popular classical composers of all time, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) has often been dismissed by critics as a conservative, nostalgic holdover of the nineteenth century and a composer fundamentally hostile to musical modernism.

The original essays collected here show how he was more responsive to aspects of contemporary musical life than is often thought, and how his deeply felt sense of Russianness coexisted with an appreciation of American and European culture. In particular, the essays document his involvement with intellectual and artistic circles in prerevolutionary Moscow and how the form of modernity they promoted shaped his early output.

This volume represents one of the first serious explorations of Rachmaninoff’s successful career as a composer, pianist, and conductor, first in late Imperial Russia, and then after emigration in both the United States and interwar Europe. Shedding light on some unfamiliar works, especially his three operas and his many songs, the book also includes a substantial number of new documents illustrating Rachmaninoff’s celebrity status in America.

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