Sergei Rachmaninov, born in 1873 in Semyonov near Novgorod, with his triple talent as pianist, composer and conductor, stands in a long Russian tradition that begins in the 19th century with Anton Rubinstein and extends well into the 20th century with Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Prokofiev.
Rachmaninov studied at the conservatory in Moscow under Alexander Siloti (one of the most famous representatives of the Liszt school), among others, and received composition lessons from Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky. After completing his piano and composition studies with the highest honours a year early, Rachmaninov achieved his first success at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1893 with the premiere of the opera [Aleko], which he had composed as his graduation work. However, the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 in 1897 under the baton of Alexander Glazunov was a fiasco: the alcoholic Glazunov had rehearsed the work carelessly and was drunk on the podium. Suffering from self-doubt, the composer had a mental breakdown and did not put a note on paper for three years. His Second Piano Concerto, composed in 1900/01, marked the end of this serious crisis, which Rachmaninov had only been able to overcome with the help of medical treatment. After the composer lost his country estate and all his savings as a result of the Russian Revolution, he took advantage of a concert invitation to Sweden to leave his homeland for ever in December 1917. A year later, he launched a phenomenal career as a pianist in the USA and became one of the greatest piano virtuosos of his day.