As popular a work as Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 has been since its premiere in Moscow in 1901, no serious study of its performance styles has ever been undertaken, until now. This dissertation investigates central aspects of performance issues of the concerto.
The pivotal issues of "authenticity" and "historically-informed performance" will be addressed primarily through the abundance of recordings ranging from the early twentieth century to the present time. These include the composer's own two recordings issued by the RCA Victor Company in 1924 and 1929.
Defining the central issues of performance practice will require a thorough study of both the score and the composer's recordings. In spite of the low frequency response of these early electric recordings, they are clear enough to shed light on many aspects of the concert's performance. An analytical comparison of Rachmaninoff s interpretations with those of other representative pianists will provide fuller insights into sound quality, technical execution, tempo and rhythm flexibility, balance with the orchestra and within the piano part, and spirituality.
Obstacles to be encountered include discrepancies between the dates of Rachmaninoff s recording sessions, the general character of Rachmaninoff's performances reviews, limited critical analysis studies, and the lack of performance interpretation sources. The subjectivity of the evaluation methodology also poses challenges.
In addition, the project will explore the cultural background, historical and political surroundings at the beginning of the twentieth century and, especially, in the state of Rachmaninoffs mental and creative activity. At that time he was undergoing intensive hypnosis treatments.
Based on my research, I would hope to refine my own interpretative conception of this remarkable work, to achieve a greater understanding of other interpretations, and determine whether it is possible to arrive at a more "authentic" one. Finally, I would endeavor to investigate how time and aural traditions in piano teaching-coaching have influenced our performance perception of this indestructible work.