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Encyclopedia > Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Russian: Рапсодия на тему Паганини, Rapsodiya na temu Paganini) is a piece of classical music for orchestra and solo piano by Sergei Rachmaninoff. According to the score, the work was written from July 3 to August 18, 1934. The piece is in the key of A minor and is Rachmaninoff's opus 43. Classical music is a broad, somewhat imprecise term, referring to music produced in, or rooted in the traditions of, European art, ecclesiastical and concert music, encompassing a broad period from roughly 1000 to the present day. ... A philharmonic orchestra An orchestra is a musical ensemble used most often in classical music. ... A grand piano, with the lid up. ... Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (Russian: , Sergej Vasil’evič Rahmaninov, April 1, 1873 (N.S.) or March 20, 1873 (O.S.) – March 28, 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. ... July 3 is the 184th day of the year (185th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 181 days remaining. ... August 18 is the 230th day of the year (231st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1934 (MCMXXXIV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... In music theory, the key identifies the tonic triad, the chord, major or minor, which represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section. ... Opus is a Latin word which means work (in the sense of a work of art). Some composers musical pieces are identified by opus numbers which generally run either in order of composition or in order of publication. ...



The piece is a set of 24 variations on the twenty-fourth and last of Niccolò Paganini's Caprices for solo violin. Several other sets of variations on this theme have been written, including pieces by Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Witold Lutosławski, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paganini himself. In music, variation is a formal technique where material is altered during repetition; reiteration with changes. ... Niccolò (or Nicolò) Paganini, (October 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist and composer. ... The final caprice of Nicolo Paganinis 24 Caprices is a famous work for solo violin. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Johannes Brahms. ... Franz Liszt (Hungarian: Liszt Ferenc) (Slovak: List Franz) (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a Hungarian ( with both parents from Slovakia ) virtuoso pianist and composer. ... Witold LutosÅ‚awski at his home. ... Andrew Lloyd Webber (publicity portrait). ...

Although Rachmaninoff's work is performed in one stretch with no breaks, it can be divided into three sections, corresponding to the three movements of a concerto: up to variation 11 corresponds to the first movement, variations 12 to 18 are the equivalent of a slow movement (with variations 14 and 15 as a sort of scherzo-interlude), and the remaining variations make a finale. Unusually, the first variation comes before the theme. The term concerto (plural is concerti or concertos) usually refers to a musical work in which one solo instrument is contrasted with an orchestra. ... A scherzo (plural scherzi) is a name given to a piece of music or a movement from a larger piece such as a symphony. ...

The piece is one of several by Rachmaninoff to quote the Dies Irae plainchant melody. The Day of Judgement from the centre panel of the Memling Triptych in Gdansk. ... Broadly speaking, plainsong is the name given to the body of traditional songs used in the liturgies of the Catholic Church. ...

Rachmaninoff himself, a noted interpreter of his own works, played the solo piano part at the piece's premiere at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, Maryland on November 7, 1934. He was accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The Lyric Opera House is a music venue in Baltimore, Maryland. ... Nickname: Monument City, Charm City, Mob Town, B-more Motto: Get In On It (formerly The City That Reads and The Greatest City in America; BELIEVE is not the official motto but rather a specific campaign) Location of Baltimore in Maryland Coordinates: Country United States State Maryland County Independent City... November 7 is the 311th day of the year (312th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 54 days remaining. ... 1934 (MCMXXXIV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will take you to calendar). ... The Philadelphia Orchestra, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the Big Five symphony orchestras in the United States and usually considered among the finest in the world. ... A conductor conducting a band at a ceremony A conductors score and batons Conducting is the act of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. ... Leopold Stokowski (born Antoni Stanisław Bolesławowicz April 18, 1882 in London, England, died September 13, 1977 in Nether Wallop, England) was the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Symphony of the Air. ...

In collaboration with Rachmaninoff, the choreographer Michel Fokine created the ballet Paganini using this piece as the score. It was premiered in 1939 at Covent Garden in England. Choreography (also known as dance composition) is the art of making structures in which movement occurs, the term composition may also refer to the navigation or connection of these movement structures. ... Michel Fokine or Mikhail Mikhailovich Fokin (Михаил Михайлович Фокин) (April 23 [O.S. April 11] 1880) – August 22, 1942) was a groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer. ... 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ...

The theme itself would continue to inspire composers after Rachmaninoff such as Lutosławski and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Rachmaninov's first "game" is to place the theme - on strings with the piano picking out salient notes - after the first variation. And that initial variation - on pizzicato strings following a general clearing of throats for orchestra and piano - is itself something of a game, since it makes a pun with the finale of Beethoven's Eroica symphony (which itself introduces a skeletal version before the actual theme). Now that the work is properly underway, Variations II to VI start to split the elements of the theme apart and to recombine them into new musical personalities. The pauses and rhetorical flourishes for the piano in variation VI herald a change of tempo and tone. Next the piano gravely intones the head-motif of the Dies Irae - the medieval "day of wrath" plainchant from the Mass of the Dead - while the orchestra accompanies with the opening motif of the Paganini theme. The Dies Irae was a favourite of Rachmaninov's, and its apocalyptic associations are by no means irrelevant here. Still, the combination of ideas is a kind of musical game, and one that will be played out later in the rhapsody. Andrew Lloyd Webber (publicity portrait). ... 1820 portrait by Karl Stieler Ludwig van Beethoven (pronounced ) (baptized December 17, 1770[1] – March 26, 1827) was a German composer and pianist. ... The Symphony No. ...

The use of the Dies Irae was perhaps Rachmaninoff's "inside joke" on the legend of Paganini. A pervading myth about Paganini is that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his fearsome technique, a rumor which he delighted in and may have even started himself. During a performance his eyes would roll into the back of his head while playing, revealing the whites. His swaying stance, long unruly hair and thin, gaunt stature would add to this rumor. He played so intensely that women would faint and men would break out weeping.

18th variation ('Andante cantabile')

The slow eighteenth variation is by far the most well-known, and it is often included on compilation CDs or records on its own, without the rest of the work.

Interestingly, this variation on first listening does not appear to contain the original theme. Rachmaninoff inverted the melody to obtain the theme for this variation.

This variation has been featured in several movies, including:

The Story of Three Loves original movie poster The Story of Three Loves, also known as Equilibrium, is a 1953 romantic portmanteau film made by MGM. It consists of three loosely linked separate stories, The Jealous Lover, Mademoiselle and Equilibrium. ... Elizabeth Taylor and John Ericson in Rhapsody Rhapsody is a 1954 MGM film directed by Charles Vidor, and produced by Lawrence Weingarten. ... Somewhere in Time is a 1980 time travel romance film directed by Jeannot Szwarc, written by Richard Matheson and starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, and Teresa Wright. ... Promotional poster for Dead Again Dead Again is a 1991 thriller film directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson. ... Synopsis Groundhog Day is a 1993 comedy film starring Bill Murray as Phil Conners, an egocentric Pittsburgh weatherman who dreads his annual assignment covering Groundhog Day from its birthplace in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. ... Sabrina is a 1995 film adapted by Barbara Benedek and David Rayfiel, based on the 1954 screenplay. ... Released in 1998, Ronin is an action/thriller that tells the story of a group of former intelligence agents who team up to steal a mysterious metal case. ...


  • Introduction: Allegro vivace - Variation I (Precedente)
  • Tema: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation II: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation III: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation IV: Più vivo
  • Variation V: Tempo precedente
  • Variation VI: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation VII: Meno mosso, a tempo mederato
  • Variation VIII: Tempo I
  • Variation IX: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation X: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation XI: Moderato
  • Variation XII: Tempo di minuetto
  • Variation XIII: Allegro
  • Variation XIV: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation XV: Più vivo scherzando
  • Variation XVI: Allegretto
  • Variation XVII: Allegretto
  • Variation XVIII: Andante cantabile
  • Variation XIX: A tempo vivace
  • Variation XX: Un poco più vivo
  • Variation XXI: Un poco più vivo
  • Variation XXII: Un poco più vivo (Alla breve)
  • Variation XXIII: L'istesso tempo
  • Variation XXIV: A tempo un poco meno mosso

External links

  Results from FactBites:
SCHMITTblog: The Musical Art of Keynote Speaking (338 words)
I admit it: I am a sucker for “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.” Most of this Rachmaninov piece (especially the beginning and end) is a virtuoso expression of passion (thus, “rhapsody”).
But about three quarters through, there’s this soft, ethereal, jazzy theme (actually inverted theme) of Paganini, first played by the piano, then repeated in the orchestra, which stops time for a moment.
The music’s passionate, frantic rhapsody gives way to a moment of simple humanity – whose popularity helped revive the career of the young composer.
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (734 words)
The work begins with a brief, eight-measure introduction followed, before the theme itself is heard, by the first variation, a skeletal outline of the melody reminiscent of the pizzicato opening of the variation-finale of Beethoven’sEroica” Symphony.
The theme, 24 measures in length, is stated by the unison violins.
The Rhapsody was an immediate success at its 1934 premiere, and became one of the staples of Rachmaninoff’s concert tours in this country and abroad during the last decade of his life.
  More results at FactBites »



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