Rachmaninoff composed Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1909 and premiered it himself in NYC later that same year. **Piano teachers and students, shut your eyes for this next fact! He actually ran out of time to practice the piece at home before traveling to NYC for the performance, so he brought a fake keyboard and practiced on the way there. He was 36 years old when all of this happened though, so he probably knew his scales by then. **Teachers/students you can open your eyes now!
Piano Concerto No. 3 is in D minor, lasts for about 45 minutes, and is in three sections called movements, like chapters of a book. It follows a typical concerto structure for these musical chapters, fast-slow-very fast. If it sounds like there are only two movements, or chapters, it’s because Rachmaninoff uses an excellent trick making the final note of the second movement the blast-off beginning of the third movement!
Pianists everywhere agree Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is one of the most monumental and difficult pieces to play. The orchestra accompaniment is also richly detailed and often takes a more central role, making this piece of music extra engaging to listeners and performers alike.
Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch, To the Wonder, Somewhere in Time, Groundhog Day, Shine, and Limitless. Piano Concerto No. 3 plays such a prominent role in the film Shine that it practically becomes a character itself!
Rachmaninoff’s compositions have a cinematic sound to them, so it’s no surprise to find them used in films. For extra credit, binge watch these movies and listen for Rachmaninoff’s music:
Rachmaninoff’s score calls for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, and the usual string section of violins, violas, cellos, and basses.