Rachmaninoff’s Pianism: a Question of Stylistic Identity


There seem to be obvious ties between Rachmaninoff’s pianism and the poetics of early 20th- century salon concert performances. Yet in Rachmaninoff’s interpretations, the pseudo-romantic expressive “lexicon” of the waning age takes on basically different stylistic and semantic meanings. This paper deals with important features of Rachmaninoff’s performance style — such as aesthetic distance, irony and other. His inclination towards formal construction, his attention to sound architectonics, his tendency to intellectualize the whole process of the musical performance enabled his contemporaries (N. Medtner and B. Asafyev among others) to speak, in the 1940s, of the creation of “an original contemporary form of artistic pianism”. The trends followed by the art of performance in the next decade would confirm the organic relationship between the stylistic features of Rachmaninoff’s pianism and the historical context of 20th-century intellectualism in musical performance.