Few names within the piano world live up to the grandeur of Sergie Rachmaninoff, wherever his name is said, pianists turn heads and approach his works with an immense level of skill, appreciation and exhilaration.
Comparitively, Rachmaninoff is a relatively modern composer, but above all, an exceptional pianist, following our reviews of sheet music from the likes of the incredible Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin and our Beginners Guide To Classical, today we step into the world of Rachmaninoff, whose flair and passion for play is simply ecstatic.
Whilst many may believe Rachmaninoff’s work to be somewhat inaccessible for the newcomer to piano, thanks to the help from our friends at Presto Music, they have helped us create a list of recommended Rachmaninoff titles for all abilities, so whether you are the seasoned pro, or a completely new player, there’s something here for you!
The first thing to note when speaking of "Rachmaninoff" is his name. Some spell it with the ‘Rachmaninoff’ others: "Rachmaninov", this is something you’ll see in this list and is simply due to an identity change during his life whereby he fled his homeland of Russia during the Russian revolution and changed his name slightly. Both are acceptable spellings, however Rachmaninoff is perhaps now the most common spelling.
Born in 1873, Rachmaninoff was one of the most talented pianists to ever walk the planet. A highly talented musician and composer, it is believed that his hands were so large and delicate to the touch that he could play, with one hand, chords that spanned 12 white piano keys.
Rachmaninoff’s dates make him a late Romantic or early modern composer and his music is generally considered to be rooted and drawn from the Russian influences of his early life. This being said, his work remains immensely appreciated across the world, namely his ‘Piano Concerto No.2’ of 1901 that when a list by ClassicFM came out, the piece was dubbed as the nation’s favourite classical work.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Rachmaninoff went into his second self-imposed exile, dividing his time between residences in Switzerland and the United States where interestingly, he felt surprisingly ‘disconnected’ from the likes of Russia and so it is said he struggled with creative expression and imagination, often instead writing tunes that reminded him of the Russia of old.
This being said, Rachmaninoff’s material is still laced with emotion, prestige and wonder. Featuring explosive changes and experimentation, his sound is truly impossible to replicate perfectly and brings with it a true sense of beauty and amazement for all those who hear it.
Easy -Intermediate Pieces
Despite being one of the most famous and popular composers to have ever lived, many consider Rachmaninoff’s work to be difficult for the new player to grasp. Thankfully however, their instantly recognisable melodies have still been captured in these Beginner-Intermediate pieces. As with all sheet music, a little theory and understanding how to read and interpret sheet music is required to play these pieces, however they offer many a fantastic introduction to bringing Rachmaninoff’s exquisite sound into your home and should offer some support for those working to around Grade 1 - 4.
Rachmaninoff's music can be daunting to those just starting out, but these simple arrangements focus on the composer's melodies and style and more abstract works. Presented in manageable, welcoming samples with simplified keys and suggested fingerings are also provided. This volume makes for a sensational approach to the composer in all his glory!
In addition to the piano arrangements, the compilation includes a free MP3 download for every piece, which will help you develop an ear for the melodies whilst being able to play alongside them for extended understanding.
Likewise, complete with playing hints and tips throughout, the Really Easy Piano collection brings with it 16 favorites by Rachmaninoff and helps offer beginners a chance to explore more of Rachmaninoff’s expressive romantic stylings in an easy to understand format.
Intermediate - Early Advanced Pieces
As we move into more intermediate to early advanced pieces, we shift our attention to those who play between the Grade 3 to Grade 6 mark; these pieces offer a fun and rewarding challenge that still delivers an immensely sophisticated sound and appreciation for Rachmaninoff, whilst removing smaller aspects of difficulty and nuance.
The 96 page bible of Rachmaninoff, showcases 29 of the pianist’s best-loved works arranged for the intermediate pianist. Offering challenge yet an immense level of reward for those committed, Themes include compositions such as “Piano concertos nos 2 & 3”, “Preludes”and “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” are presented alongside new arrangements of vocal, chamber and orchestral works such as “Vocalise”, “Vespers”, “Aleko”, and “Symphonies nos 2 & 3”, making this anindispensable anthology of one of the most important 20th-century composers.
As with so many of the intermediate stage pieces, this level of play also allows players to begin exploring individual pieces to a far more detailed level. Here we bring a popular and beautifully loved melody to your repertoire, with this fantastic arrangement of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: Eighteenth Variation. Ideally suited for those around a Grade 5 standard.
The popular piece is presented here transposed in the key of D - the original score is notated in D Flat and the passages which incorporate the piano and orchestral parts are a little tricky, but once devised, are impressively flowing and complete, offering a sensational approach to such an iconic work!
Perhaps one of his most famous concertos, this volume offers 48 Pages of sensational variation, this rendition of Racmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto Opus 18 offers a fantastic level of challenge and intrigue for all those prepared to tackle it.
Equipped with profiling the 27 tempo variations and chord names, this volume contains all you need to play all three principal movements of this beautiful work.
Advanced/Professional Level Pieces
The advanced works of Rachmaninoff are perhaps some of the most difficult and challenging that are out there. However for those with the skill, patience and creativity to learn, you are opened into a world of sheer beauty and expression of the limitless possibilities of piano playing. All of these pieces are suited to those Grade 7 or 8, however may still find large levels of difficulty.
Rachmaninoff in his purest form, this 96 page volume takes highlights from the Authentic Editions of Rachmaninoff’s finest piano works including selections from “Preludes“, “Etudes-tableaux“, “Moments Musicaux“, “Morceaux de Fantaisie“ & “Morceaux de Salon“. Giving you a sensational overall view of the composers works across his lifetime.
Some of the most beautiful music by Sergei Rachmaninoff can be found in his art songs for singers with piano accompaniment. Now, these remarkable works are now accessible to pianists as solo compositions. Being skillfully combined the vocal and accompaniment parts and featuring 11 unique takes on Rachmaninoff’s works in other areas of composition, these pieces have all been perfectly transposed into piano to allow you to explore Rachmaninoff like never before!
We hope you have enjoyed this list and have found something that interests you! The world of Rachmaninoff truly is a colourful one to explore, so we wish you all the best in your ventures. For expert advice on getting more from your instrument and making sure you have the right piano to enable expression to Rachmaninoff’s level, if you are looking to upgrade your piano, contact our experts today!