Sergei Rachmaninoff, continued
Rachmaninoff is regarded as one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century. He had legendary technical facilities and rhythmic drive, and his large hands were able to cover the interval of a thirteenth on the keyboard (a hand span of approximately twelve inches). According to fellow composer Igor Stravinsky Rachmaninoff stood 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm) tall. He also had the ability to play complex compositions upon first hearing. Many recordings were made by the Victor Talking Machine Company recording label of Rachmaninoff performing his own music, as well as works from the standard repertory.
His reputation as a composer has generated a variety of opinions, before his music gained steady recognition across the world. The 1954 edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians notoriously dismissed his music as "monotonous in texture ... consist[ing] mainly of artificial and gushing tunes ..." and predicted that his popular success was "not likely to last". To this, Harold C. Schonberg, in his Lives of the Great Composers, responded, "It is one of the most outrageously snobbish and even stupid statements ever to be found in a work that is supposed to be an objective reference." Indeed, not only have Rachmaninoff's works become part of the standard repertoire, but their popularity among both musicians and audiences has, if anything, increased during the second half of the twentieth century, with some of his symphonies and other orchestral works, songs and choral music recognized as masterpieces alongside the more familiar piano works.
His compositions include, among numerous others: four piano concerti; the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; three symphonies; two piano sonatas; three operas; a choral symphony (The Bells, based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe); the All-Night Vigil, for unaccompanied choir (often known as Rachmaninoff's Vespers); twenty-four Preludes (including the famous Prelude in C-sharp minor); the Six Moments Musicaux; seventeen Études-tableaux; many songs, of which the most famous are "V molchanyi nochi taynoi" ("In the silence of night"), Lilacs, and the wordless Vocalise; and the last of his works, the Symphonic Dances. Most of his pieces follow a melancholy, late-Romantic style akin to Tchaikovsky, although strong influences of Chopin and Liszt are apparent. Further inspiration included the music of Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Medtner (whom he considered the greatest contemporary composer and who, according to Schonberg's Lives, returned the compliment by imitating him) and Henselt.