Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky

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Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky

Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky are my composers. What I mean by “my” is that I connect to their music differently on an emotional level than to the music of any other composers. I don’t like comparing composers – art is very subjective and deeply personal; it is shaped by our experiences. I don’t know if it is their being Russian and my being born in Russia and spending the first 18 years of my life there, or is it simply that their music aligns better with my emotional frequencies? 

When I learned that the Boulder Symphony was performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (colloquially called “Rach 3”) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, I felt that we had to go. I have listened to both pieces thousands of times. I was so obsessed with Rach 3 that I listened to it nonstop for months. 

Classical music rarely sells out venues in Colorado. Unless a big star soloist is featured, I usually buy tickets last-minute. This strategy had never failed me… until it did. Boulder is an hour away from our house; so just in case, I went online a few hours before the performance to buy tickets. I was surprised to find that many people in Boulder apparently connect with Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff as strongly as I do (or perhaps Boulder was invaded by Russians) – the concert was sold out. But I was really excited about this concert – I had been telling my wife and daughters, Hannah (18) and Mia Sarah (10), about it for days.

I called my friend Devin Patrick Hughes, the music director and conductor of the Boulder Symphony and asked if he had better luck than me getting tickets. Devin said, “Vitaliy, it is completely sold out. But come, and we will figure something out.” I said, “This is going to be interesting!”and we both laughed. (By the way, Devin interviewed me on his podcast – you can watch it here:

I told my wife and kids to prepare to stand for two hours. 

When we arrived, we were greeted by Devin’s assistant, who, to our surprise, walked us past the general seating area onto the stage! There were four folding chairs waiting for us right behind the cellos and basses. The audience could not see us, as we were separated by a black curtain, but we felt like we were part of the orchestra. These were the best seats I had ever had in my life! 

But my excitement was not for myself but for my kids – I was happy for them to experience my favorite pieces while sitting on stage with the orchestra. It is hard to describe the joy I experienced seeing their faces light up with emotion as they experienced the music of my composers. 

It is this kind of experiences that little by little has got my kids hooked on classical music. While I was traveling in Europe recently, Hannah called to tell me that she had been driving Mia Sarah to school and playing classical music in the car. In her words, “Dad, I was going you on Mia Sarah.” Hannah is eight years older than Mia Sarah, and at this age they are almost a generation apart. If Hannah is passing her love for music to Mia Sarah, she will likely do the same thing with her own children. My work is done!

Today I am going to share with you the music of my composers that we heard at the concert:

Rachmaninoff – Andante from Cello Sonata

Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 3

Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 5

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