Performers and performances

Not just a one hit wonder … but there was an audience favorite

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor proved very popular with the public. At times, it was programmed “by request” (1), and if not was freqently expected as an encore. In 1922, Rachmaninoff performed in the Queens Hall (London). A critic in the Musical Times described the event:

It was clear that the bulk of those who filled Queen’s Hall at Rachmaninov’s first recital on May 6 came to see the composer of a certain Prelude rather than hear a certain pianist of unusual excellence. We felt that Mozart’s Sonata in A, Beethoven’s in E [minor] (Op. 90), a Chopin group, and Mendelssohn’s Andante and Rondo Capriccioso were mere preliminaries. The real business of the afternoon, we knew, was to come at the end. And so it was. A batch of pieces in which the pianist figured as composer (a jolly Polka and the Preludes in G flat and B flat) and transcriber (Kreisler’s Liebesleid roused the assembled suburbians for the supplementary recital without no occasion of the kind complete. Rachmaninov knew what was coming, if his depressed air was any guide. He had hardly sunk onto the piano-stool when cries of “C sharp minor!” were fired at him, and he got to work at once, not even making a fresh start when the mob broke in on the opening notes with applause. … More enthusiasm followed, and he continued playing and his admirers went on making noises till the attendents applied the closure by switching off the lights and shutting the pianoforte. It would be a great treat to hear this fine and unassuming pianist in a small hall from which all Prelude-maniacs had been barred.

He gave a second recital on May 20, when Queen’s Hall was again crowded. They got that Prelude again!

(1) Rachmaninoff performed before the Philharmonic Society (England) in 1911 performing his D minor piano concerto. The program also included “Prelude in C-sharp minor (by Special Request”).

Source: Scholes, Percy (1947) The Mirror of Music. London: Novello. vol.1, p.447.

By Greg

Australian composer and pianist