6 Similarities Between Ravel & Rachmaninoff
1. Ravel and Rachmaninoff were contemporaries; their active years and careers were very similar to each other. They had a hard time receiving praise from critics at first, before blossoming as internationally recognized composers, pianists and conductors. Ravel and Rachmaninoff are not only among the first composers to have their music recorded, but they are also the performers on these recordings. Only a handful of recordings exist of famous composers performing their own music from this era.
2. While many pianist-composers shied away from conducting, Ravel and Rachmaninoff often conducted throughout their careers.
3. They are two of the few pianist-composers who tackled orchestral composition.
4. Early in their careers, Rachmaninoff and Ravel were both influenced by the trends of their nations—Russia and France, respectively—especially with the increasing desire to move away from German-dominated romanticism of the late 19th century. However, both composers eventually developed a very personal style, favoring their own expressive idiom over national identity.
5. Both men were phenomenally gifted pianists. Their piano music brought a whole new skill cap to the standard repertoire. From pieces written in all 24 major and minor keys, to those using only one hand, they pushed the boundaries of the instrument by mastering old techniques. When the tempo increased, the harmony followed. While other composers would reduce a fast passage 1 or 2 notes at a time, Ravel and Rachmaninoff retained thickly voiced chords—sometimes requiring all 10 fingers—even if the music was quite fast!
6. Both works featured on the NJSO’s upcoming concert—Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances—are among the last in each composer’s catalog. They each sum up the output of genres that were not entirely comfortable to them, and they each display a unique control of material and its orchestration.
Hear works from these two great composers on January 19 at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, January 20 at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick and January 21 at NJPAC in Newark.