Rachmaninov composed his First Symphony in 1895, at the age of just 22 years. It received its first performance on March 27, 1897, at a Russian Symphony Society concert in St. Petersburg with Alexander Glazunov conducting. The premiere was not well-received, and Rachmaninov himself blamed Glazunov for a lacklustre approach for beating time rather than finding the music. Some contemporary reports even suggested that Glazunov was inebriated when he took to the stage!
Despite the disappointment of the premiere performance, Rachmaninov never destroyed the score but left it behind when he left Russia to settle in the West, eventually it was given up for lost. After the composer’s death, a two-piano transcription of the symphony surfaced in Moscow, followed by a set of orchestral parts at the conservatory in Saint Petersburg. In March 1945, the symphony was performed in Moscow for the first time since its 1897 premiere. It was a grand success, and this led to a new and more enthusiastic evaluation of the symphony. In March 1948 it received a similarly successful American premiere and the work proceeded to establish itself in the general repertory.
The final movement (Allegro con fuoco) is colourful and grand but not without its darkly contrasting, menacing episodes that intensifies its malevolence. It is a work overflowing with ideas demonstrating a strong, highly individual, and self-assured young talent.
Iten Code: TPBB-027
Grade: 2nd Section and above