Argentine pianist Martha Argerich and the Brazilian classical pianist Nelson Freire perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2, Op. 17, a composition for two pianos, which was composed in Italy in the first months of 1901. Recorded in Tokyo in October 2003.

Argerich, Freire – Rachmaninoff – Suite No. 2, Op 17

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2

Suite No. 2, Op. 17, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, is a composition for two pianos, and four hands, completed in 1901. This suite is an exemplary showcase of Rachmaninoff’s evolving compositional style during the early 20th century. Unlike his earlier compositions, which often bore the influence of Tchaikovsky, Suite No. 2 stands out for its distinctive character and a more pronounced individuality in Rachmaninoff’s artistic voice.

The piece marks a significant period in Rachmaninoff’s life and career. After his highly unsuccessful first symphony, Rachmaninoff did not produce anything for four years. This suite, like his 2nd Piano Concerto, came after that period. It was first performed on November 24, 1901, at a concert of the Moscow Philharmonic Society, by the composer himself and his cousin Alexander Siloti (9 October 1863, near Kharkiv – 8 December 1945, New York City), the Ukrainian pianist, conductor, and composer).

In this work, Rachmaninoff moves away from the more traditional forms and structures, embracing a freer, more expressive style. The suite is noted for its rich textures and complex harmonies, which would become hallmarks of Rachmaninoff’s later works. The interplay between the two pianos is masterfully orchestrated, creating a dialogue that ranges from intimate and subtle exchanges to powerful, grandiose statements.

The music’s emotional depth reflects Rachmaninoff’s personal struggles and triumphs. There’s a sense of introspection and melancholy, a trait common in many of his compositions, but also moments of joy and exuberance. This emotional diversity adds to the suite’s appeal, making it not just a technical showcase for pianists but also a deeply moving piece for listeners.

Suite No. 2 is also significant for its place in Rachmaninoff’s overall oeuvre. It marks a turning point where he began to gain more confidence in his unique voice, setting the stage for his later, more famous works, such as the Piano Concertos and Symphonic Dances.

The four movements are:

  1. Introduction (Alla marcia, in C major). The first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 is titled “Introduction.” It sets a dramatic and expressive tone for the suite, characterized by its bold, commanding opening and intricate interplay between the two pianos. This movement unfolds with a blend of lyrical melodies and powerful, rhythmic sections, showcasing Rachmaninoff’s skill in crafting emotionally charged music with complex harmonies and textures, typical of his early 20th-century style.
  2. Valse (Presto, in G major). The second movement of Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2, known as “Valse,” is a captivating waltz that exudes elegance and charm. This movement contrasts the dramatic intensity of the first with its lighter, more graceful character. It features a flowing, dance-like rhythm, adorned with delicate, lyrical melodies and intricate interplays between the pianos, embodying a romantic and somewhat nostalgic air, typical of Rachmaninoff’s lyrical style.
  3. Romance (Andantino, in A flat major). The third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 is titled “Romance.” It is a deeply expressive and introspective piece, characterized by its gentle, lyrical quality. This movement showcases a more subdued, tender side of Rachmaninoff’s composition, with a focus on intricate melodic lines that weave a tapestry of emotional depth. The interplay between the two pianos creates a sense of intimate conversation, embodying a romantic, almost dreamlike atmosphere.
  4. Tarantelle (Presto, in C minor). The fourth movement of Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 is the “Tarantella,” marked by its lively and vigorous character. This movement is a vivid, rhythmically driven piece that captures the essence of the traditional Italian dance it’s named after. It features a rapid tempo and energetic melodies, creating a vibrant and exhilarating finale. The pianos engage in a dynamic, almost playful exchange, showcasing Rachmaninoff’s ability to combine technical virtuosity with expressive, spirited music.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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