Quotes By Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was the last great figure of the tradition of Russian Romanticism and a leading piano virtuoso of his time.

“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” – Sergei Rachmaninoff

“A good conductor ought to be a good chauffeur; the qualities that make the one also make the other. They are concentration, an incessant control of attention, and presence of mind; the conductor only has to add a little sense of music.” – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Quoted in Oskar von Riesemann (trans. Dolly Rutherford) Rachmaninoff’s Recollections (New York: Macmillan, 1934) p. 155.

“My dear hands. Farewell, my poor hands.” – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Quoted in Sergei Bertensson and Jay Leyda Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002) p. 381.
Said on February 27, 1943, during his last illness, after having said that he would never be able to play again.

“I felt like a man who had suffered a stroke and had lost the use of his head and hands,” – Sergei Rachmaninoff

“The virtuosos look to the students of the world to do their share in the education of the great musical public. Do not waste your time with music that is trite or ignoble. Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Saharas of musical trash.” – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Extract from an interview by James Francis Cooke, as given in the 1999 edition of Great Pianists on Piano Playing (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1999) p. 217.

“I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien. I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new. I have made an intense effort to feel the musical manner of today, but it will not come to me.” – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Interviewed by Leonard Liebling in The Musical Courier, 1939; cited from Sergei Bertensson and Jay Leyda Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002) p. 351.

“I can respect the artistic aim of a composer if he arrives at the so-called modern idiom after an intense period of preparation…Such composers know what they are doing when they break a law; they know what to react against, because they have had experience in the classical forms and style. Having mastered the rules, they know which can be violated and which should be obeyed. But, I am sorry to say, I have found too often that young composers plunge into the writing of experimental music with their school lessons only half learned. Too much radical music is sheer sham, for this very reason: its composer sets about revolutionizing the laws of music before he learned them himself.” – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Interviewed by David Ewen in The Etude, 1941; cited from Josiah Fisk and Jeff Nichols (eds.) Composers on Music (Boston, MA: Northeastern Universities Press, 1997) pp. 235-6

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