November 12, 2013

Rachmaninoff Goes Pop

Rachmaninoff's sweeping, soaring melodies have captivated classical audiences and transcended the classical genre, turning up in popular music throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Themes from his second piano concerto have served as inspiration for pop songs like "Full Moon and Empty Arms," made famous by Frank Sinatra in the 1940s:

as well as Eric Carmen's 1975 power ballad "All By Myself."

Carmen also gained inspiration from Rachmaninoff for his 1976 hit single "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again," which directly quotes Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony. Listen to Carmen's version, and compare it to Rachmaninoff's original:

Rachmaninoff's influence on these songs underscores his tremendous gift for writing a great melody that resonates across genres and generations. But, his music is much more than a catchy theme to be extracted and re-purposed. When put into context, these themes become part of a larger picture, seeming to evolve endlessly and go on forever. It's not just about the main theme, but about where it goes, how it changes shape, what's around it, and how all of the lines are woven together, and it's something that the pop versions can't re-create.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra perfoms Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 November 14 and 16, 2013 in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. The program also includes Hindemith's Concert Music for Strings and Brass and Richard Strauss's Oboe Concerto. Junichi Hirokami, guest conductor; Erik Behr, oboe.

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