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The definitive account of Rachmaninov
on 8 September 2008
This is by far the best biography of the composer I have ever come across. Re-issued some 50 years after its initial publication, this is the account that all subsequent biographies seem to refer back to for facts about his life. Written by people who actually knew Rachmaninov, including co-operation from his sister-in-law Sophia Satina, this is an intimate and fascinating account of the composer's life - much of the book includes private letters to and from the composer to close friends and family, and thus reveals many interesting anecdotes about the composer's thoughts of his own work as well as giving an insight into his personality.
Despite being one of the finest pianists of his generation and revered as a composer by the mass public (if not all the critics), Rachmaninov was riddled with insecurity for much of his life, going back to the failure of his First Symphony.
This book reveals all the turbulent events in his life, from the uprising in Russia, to his eventual departure for good in 1917, when the composer lived in Western Europe and America for the rest of his life. Forced to become a concert pianist to fund his lifestyle in the west, Rachmaninov's composition suffered considerably for the latter part of his life, but for those who were lucky enought to have heard him play, he went on to become one of the finest pianists that ever lived.
This is more of a general biography of the composer's life than an academic analysis of his music (more recent biographies by Harrison and Martyn cover this area in more detail), but it remains a fascinating, accessible and enjoyable account of the private life of this remarkable man.