As the last of the Great Russian romantic composers,
Sergei Rachmaninov wrote some of the 20th century's most beloved music. His piano works include many pieces for two pianos and piano duets. One of his earliest works,
Russian Rhapsody, was written in January 1891. It is a passionate piece composed over a Russian theme with eight variations and an exhilarating finale.
Romance, from Suite No. 2, is typical of his unique ability to create lyrical melodies supported by wonderful harmonies. Rachmaninov wrote
Italian Polka after a family holiday in Italy in 1906. While travelling there, he
met a street musician singing a Neapolitan song which inspired the theme for this charming composition.
Russian Song, piano duet in B minor captures, in various contrasting versions, the "Song of the Volga Boatmen" and delivers it with brooding Russian intensity. The piano duet,
Waltz in A major, perhaps inspired from the Viennese salons, finishes the Russian theme in a delightfully exuberant fashion.
Paul Dukas, a close friend of Debussy and d'Indy, was not only a composer, but also a teacher and a music critic. Although he unfortunately destroyed many of his works, there remains the well-known
L'Apprenti Sorcier ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), composed in 1897. Rarely performed in Dukas's own transcription for two pianos, it is a dashing and provocative work creating excitement and devilish humour.
Despite Claude Debussy's somewhat chequered life, he became one of the most influential composers of his time. The emergence of the Impressionist painters in Paris was followed by that of Debussy who preferred the company of his artist friends to his fellow musicians. Ultimately, his music, with its revolutionary sound created from rich instrumental tone-colours, was conveyed and portrayed as Impressionistic. Debussy transcribed
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune ("Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun") for 2 pianos in 1894 while he was still working on the orchestral score. Although the colouring of the orchestral arrangement is missing, Debussy succeeded in creating another, perhaps more intimate, version.
Georges Bizet showed bright promise as a student, but later faced years marked by crises of self-confidence, illness and emotional strife. As the creator of perhaps the world's best known opera, Carmen, regrettably he lived and died without the success his genius undoubtedly deserved. Bizet's charming work
("Child's Play") was composed for piano duet in the 1870s and it is one of the most beloved piano duets of all time. This marvellous collection of children's pieces (there is a child in every grownup) invokes nostalgic scenes of childhood memories.