Stephen Speicher

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

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13 posts in this topic

Simply put, this is my favorite piece of music in the entire world.

I have listened to many, many renditions of this piece, but my favorite is by Emil Gilels.

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I'm listening to it right now, after I read what you wrote about it. Very good. Though some modern music does have value, it is not comparable to the value these types of beautiful works offer.

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Although I had been exposed to some classical music as a child (at home and through film), I did not become seriously interested in it until Objectivism.

It was a good time: I had just stepped out into financial independence, having moved to a sunny, hilly state in the South to begin a software engineering job. It was a beautiful summer, and I had just made my first pass through The Romantic Manifesto.

I knew that if I were to understand Miss Rand's ideas, I would have to experience what she had written about. I decided to make my way into the world of classical music. At the time, I considered the genre pleasant but, if a piece wasn't tied to a film, it bored me.

So, I thought I'd try short pieces first, compilations, which would "get to the point" quickly.

I went out, and in my naivete, bought a 2-CD set titled, "Romantic Adagios," because I thought the "Romantic" in the title had some connection to the school of art Miss Rand had written about. ;)

Yep, I was wrong; but, I'll never regret buying those CDs, for that's where I first heard Variation 18 of the Rhapsody. [Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano. The Cleveland Orchestra/Vladmir Ashkenazy.] It's the popular 3 minutes of pure melody that begins about the 14th minute of the larger work.

I was transfixed. I wondered: what kind of person could have written this? And what sound in reality could he have heard that would have inspired this? Was he on some kind of dedicated line to the gods?

I decided to make it my business to find out more about Sergei Rachmaninoff and to find music with this level of grandeur; it has been a wonderful journey. And, there's a lot out there still left to hear.

Thank you, Ayn Rand.

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Simply put, this is my favorite piece of music in the entire world.

I have listened to many, many renditions of this piece, but my favorite is by Emil Gilels.

Stephen, would you describe what it is about the Rhapsody that makes it your favorite?

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Stephen, would you describe what it is about the Rhapsody that makes it your favorite?

Leaving aside the technical greatness of the piece (which you can read from many writings elsewhere by those much more expert than myself), sufficient alone for me is the most exquisite melody ever created by man. When the melody from the 18th variation begins, I close my eyes and surrender my body to the music, allowing the notes to gently carry me aloft, like a sweet warm summer breeze floats a leaf into the sky. I rise higher and higher as the notes repeat and the intensity of the melody continues to increase, until a final explosion releases my soul for a moment's flight on its own. After this glorious climax, I ride the notes down so ever gently, wafting through the space I was transported to. It is an emotionally draining experience, an exquisite series of moments that touch my sense of life like no other music can.

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Leaving aside the technical greatness of the piece (which you can read from many writings elsewhere by those much more expert than myself), sufficient alone for me is the most exquisite melody ever created by man. When the melody from the 18th variation begins, I close my eyes and surrender my body to the music, allowing the notes to gently carry me aloft, like a sweet warm summer breeze floats a leaf into the sky. I rise higher and higher as the notes repeat and the intensity of the melody continues to increase, until a final explosion releases my soul for a moment's flight on its own. After this glorious climax, I ride the notes down so ever gently, wafting  through the space I was transported to. It is an emotionally draining experience, an exquisite series of moments that touch my sense of life like no other music can.

Stephen, that is absolutely beautiful. Your description brings the music immediately to mind; it is pure poetry. I agree with you about the 18th variation being "the most exquisite melody ever". I love how the 19th, with its sense of readiness for action and excitement, follows. Thank you so much for your post, which is a great value in itself.

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Leaving aside the technical greatness of the piece (which you can read from many writings elsewhere by those much more expert than myself), sufficient alone for me is the most exquisite melody ever created by man.

Given all that I've heard in the past 5 years, I fully, utterly agree.

In my last post, I had given thanks to Ayn Rand, but not to Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Perhaps it's because I give thanks to him each time I play and/or buy his music, which is very often.

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I attended the New York Philharmonic's performance last night (Gabriela Montero as soloist). While it isn't *quite* my favorite piece in the entire world (my heart belongs to Dvorak and Tchaikovsky), this is certainly among the greatest pieces of music written, and I highly recommend going to see it live if you can. Better yet, sit in a box -- you can see the pianist's hands that way! (The cheap top-tier box seats I got turned out to be wonderful for this purpose.) Watching the soloist's hands move swiftly and surely across the keyboard added another dimension of wonder to hearing the piece -- one can easily see the virtuosity required to turn notes on a page into a beautiful performance.

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For a very long time, Dvorak's 9th symphony (particularly the second movement) was my favorite piece of classical music, but this piece has replaced it as my favorite. Rhapsody is absolutely enchanting throughout the entire piece. :blink:

I listened to his second piano concerto and wanted to hear more of his work. Here is a place to download it if anyone else is interested:

http://www.classiccat.net/rachmaninov_s/43.htm

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On a side note, Andrew Lloyd Webber did an homage to the first movement of Rhapsody in his opera Song and Dance. Unless I'm much mistaken, it is in Variations 1-4 in act 2. I knew it sounded familar when I first heard it :)

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Leaving aside the technical greatness of the piece (which you can read from many writings elsewhere by those much more expert than myself), sufficient alone for me is the most exquisite melody ever created by man. When the melody from the 18th variation begins, I close my eyes and surrender my body to the music, allowing the notes to gently carry me aloft, like a sweet warm summer breeze floats a leaf into the sky. I rise higher and higher as the notes repeat and the intensity of the melody continues to increase, until a final explosion releases my soul for a moment's flight on its own. After this glorious climax, I ride the notes down so ever gently, wafting through the space I was transported to. It is an emotionally draining experience, an exquisite series of moments that touch my sense of life like no other music can.

Stephen had said, "Simply put, this is my favorite piece of music in the entire world." I asked him why. The above statement, which I have tacked to a wall in my bedroom, was his beautiful and poetic response. Truly, Stephen Speicher was an end in himself.

Brian Faulkner

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