Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, op. 27

Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote his Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, op. 27 in 1906-1907 and dedicated the work to one of his teachers – Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev. Until then, the composer had already had two successful seasons as the conductor of the Imperial Opera on stage of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre.  In 1906, together with his wife and daughters he moved to Dresden, where he could devote himself entirely to composing music, as well as to flee from deteriorating political situation which drove Russia towards revolution. The family remained in Dresden for three years and spent their summer vacations in the village of Ivanovka. It was in that period that Rachmaninov wrote not only his Second Symphony, but also the symphonic poem The Island of the Dead, as well as his first piano sonata.

In the aftermath of the failure of his first symphony, the composer had lost confidence that he was an able composer in the genre of symphony. The premiere of Symphony No. 1 under the baton of Alexander Glazunov drew such fierce criticisms that the young author lapsed into deep depression. Even after the success of his Second Piano Concerto, which won the Glinka Prize and earned him a 500 rouble profit in 1904, Rahmaninoff still could not regain faith in his abilities. He disliked the first draft of his Second Symphony, but nevertheless revised the work a few months later, and on 8 February 1908, under his direction, the symphony was first performed in St. Petersburg and less than a month later in Moscow.

This Rachmaninoff symphony had enormous success. The reviewer from Russian Musical Gasette wrote: „The new Symphony is, above all, a personal, rachmaninovian, uninhibited insight into the inner world of man by a delicate and discerning artist who can think, feel and experience on his own. Here is Rachmaninoff, who already possesses a distinctly new face of his own in Russian art. An artist of amazing delicacy of concept, exquisiteness of taste, sophisticated imagination… with predisposition to elegiac moods…  The symphony is powerful both in its entirety and in the splendid abundance of detail. The sentiment and inspiration correspond to the mature artistic completeness of expression. The first and overall impression is that, with its poetic and artistic brilliance, the symphony arrests the attention from beginning to end, and for all the diversity of its expression and for the equilibrium of contrasts, it combines in itself the elements of the beautiful and the tragically unsightly”.

The triumph restored Rachmaninoff’s confidence in his own abilities. Subsequently he also wrote a Third Symphony (1936), as well as the famous Symphonic Dances, which saw the light of day three years before the composer’s death.

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