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The Incomparable "Rach 3"

The Incomparable "Rach 3"

Rachmaninoff’s works have inspired many Hollywood soundtracks, so it is fitting that his Piano Concerto No. 3 has itself played a central film role. Shine, the 1996 movie based on the true story of Australian pianist David Helfgott, depicts the life of a piano prodigy pushed to perfection by his domineering father, and driven to madness by the technical and emotional demands of the “Rach 3.” The film earned praise from critics and audiences alike, and an Oscar for lead actor Geoffrey Rush. It also renewed interest in Rachmaninoff’s technical tour-de-force.

Sergei Rachmaninov was a renowned virtuoso pianist in his own right before pursuing his passion for composing, and eventually conducting. The gifted musician began his formal training at the age of 9, and at 19, he made a name for himself with his Prelude in C Sharp Minor. Rachmaninoff’s public success was further buoyed by his Piano Concerto No. 1, but the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 in D Minor brought such harsh critical reception that the composer was thrown into a deep depression and wouldn’t attempt another composition for three years. The piece was never performed again during his lifetime, and it would be a full 10 years after composing the First Piano Concerto that Rachmaninoff completed his Second Piano Concerto. This premiere was a triumph, and the composition would eventually earn a place among the great piano works.

If the Piano Concerto No. 2 is recognized as one of the most loved in the piano repertoire, then the Piano Concerto No. 3 is known as one of the most feared, due to its extraordinary technical demands. It is even rumored that Josef Hofmann, the concert pianist for whom Rachmaninoff wrote the concerto, refused to play it for this very reason. Soloist Jeffrey Biegel, himself a performer and composer, is poised to tackle this formidable work. Once described by Leonard Bernstein as “a splendid musician and a brilliant performer,” Mr. Biegel has received worldwide critical acclaim for his technique and musicianship. He is the recipient of the Juilliard William Petschek Piano Debut Award, the First Grand Prize in the 1989 Marguerite Long International Piano Competition, and the First Prize in the 1985 William Kapell/University of Maryland International Piano Competition.