Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor Op. 18
was dedicated to Dr. Nikolay Dahl who helped Rachmaninov to regain
his confidence after the severe criticism given to his first symphony at it's premier in 1897.
He fell into deep depression and stopped composing until the spring of 1900, when his aunt
suggested he saw Dr. Dahl. Soon after he was composing again with such self-confidence that
in August he completed the second and third movements of the piano concerto. Later that year,
after the premier in Moscow, without the first movement, it received high acclaim from the
critics. Spurred on, Rachmaninov completed the first movement in the spring of 1901, and
the premier of the complete concerto in Moscow on the 9 November 1901, was a great success.
The First Movement: Moderato begins with the piano in a sombre mood
making chords similar to the chiming of a church bell and then expanding as if opening up
to the great, vast, open spaces of Russia. As the melody unfolds, the dark clouds are brewing
on the horizon. For a moment the melody brightens as if the sun shines through, with a beautiful
piano solo, only to be brought to a brooding and stormy end by the strings and the piano.
The Second Movement: Adagio sostenuto; as with the aftermath of a storm, the melancholy melody
of the piano, followed by the clarinet and flute, echo the solitude and gentle awakening of the
landscape. The tempo increases with the piano cadenza, but returns to a soft calm with the
whispering strings, and a beautiful, warm piano solo ends the movement.
The Third Movement: Allegro Scherzando begins with the strings making
a dramatic introduction. The piano makes a thrilling but brief solo and eventually fades
to unnerving stillness. A fantastic climax is reached when the piano and the whole orchestra
return with the wonderful melody bringing everyone to their feet rejoicing in the rapturous