The Russians were latecomers to classical music. But in the 19th century, the glorious combustion of Russian nationalism and romanticism would give us some of the most popular and memorable music we have. Add the dimension of the Russian piano tradition, nurtured in the conservatories of St. Petersburg and Moscow, and you get the immortal masterpiece concertos by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky.

Rachmaninov’s career had ground to a halt. In 1897, the premiere of his First Symphony was overseen by a visibly drunk conductor and viciously condemned by critics. Afterwards, he believed he was not fit to compose and concentrated on his work as a concert soloist and an opera conductor. During this time, he took to drink. By the end of 1899, he was an alcoholic whose hands shook so badly, it imperiled his keyboard skills. In the early months of 1900, on the advice of his cousins, Rachmaninov saw Dr.Nikolai Dahl, a Moscow specialist in "neuropsychotherapy.” The composer undertook daily rounds of hypnosis where he was urged to compose a new piano concerto for a London impresario. The therapy was successful. Rachmaninov worked with vigor and produced an excellent concerto that he dedicated to Dr. Dahl. It was warmly received by audiences and quickly became a staple in concerts halls everywhere.

Rachmaninov Concerto No.2 in C Minor, Opus 18

Mov't 1 Sergei Rachmaninov/Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Fidelio 8819

Movement 2 Vladimir Ashkenazy/London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn
LONDON 444-839-2

Movement 3 Krystian Zimerman/Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
Deutsche Grammophon DDG 4596432