Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Sergei Rachmaninov

The quantity and numbering of these Etudes is confusing because Rachmaninov withdrew three of the original nine prior to publication. The original nine were as follows: #1 in f minor, #2 in C major, #3 in c minor, #4 in a minor, #5 in d minor, #6 in e-flat minor, #7 in E-flat major, #8 in g minor, and #9 in c-sharp minor. Rachmaninov withdrew numbers 3 in c minor, 4 in a minor and 5 in d minor. The a minor Etude, originally number 4, was included in the Etudes-Tableaux, Opus 39 as number 6, and the other two, in c minor and d minor were published posthumously. The resulting set of Etudes-Tableaux, Opus 33, thereby became a set of six, #1 in f minor, #2 in C major, #3 (formerly #6) in e-flat minor, #4 (formerly #7) in E-flat major, #5 (formerly #8) in g minor, and #6 (formerly #9) in c-sharp minor. The two posthumously published Etudes are now usually reinstated in the set between numbers 2 and 3, creating a set of eight Etudes. The style is identical to that of the Préludes, Opus 32, and, in fact, there is little technically to differentiate these pieces as distinctly Etudes rather than Préludes. On the other hand, the powerfully declamatory mood of these works seems to give them a more epic scale than the Préludes in spite of their similar length. This is presumably because of Rachmaninov's intention that these be more than just studies, but also "Tableaux" (pictures). #1, in f minor. This is a march in Rachmaninov's usual style. It is actually easier to play than most of the Préludes. #2, in C major. A lovely Nocturne, similar in mood and style to the Prélude Opus 32 #12. The right-hand melody soars above an arpeggiated left hand. Again, an Etude of only moderate difficulty. #3, in c minor (published posthumously). This is a slow and stately elegy. The second half in C major is less severe. Rachmaninov used the closing bars in the middle movement of his Fourth Piano Concerto, which may explain its withdrawal from the original set. #4, in d minor (published posthumously). Driving rhythms propel this staccato chord study. Brilliant and effective, it is unknown why Rachmaninov withdrew it from the original set. #5, in e-flat minor (originally #6, published as #3). Complex rapid figurations are the main feature of this breathtaking and difficult study. The harmony is fleeting and chromatic. #6, in E-flat major (originally #7, published as #4). Strongly reminiscent of the E major Prélude Opus 32, #3, this Etude is a brilliant and vigorously exciting March. #7, in g minor (originally #8, published as #5). This is an elegiac Nocturne that gradually builds to a dramatic and declamatory central cadenza. The shortened reprise builds to another climactic cadenza before the hushed final chords. It is an extraordinarily original conception. #8, in c-sharp minor (originally #9, published as #6). Rachmaninov makes effective use of the shift between major and minor sonorities in this bold and declamatory piece. The overall mood is tragic and powerful.