Date of Award
Honors Bachelor of Arts
The music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), Russia’s great pianist, conductor, and composer, has often been maligned by critics and musicologists alike for its reluctance to follow the avant-garde of the music world into that great adventure of experiments in atonality and non-common-practice technique of the early twentieth century. Although the composer’s works are beloved by audiences worldwide, they have often faced complex critical reception for the composer’s supposed conservatism and relative lack of expressive palette. Francis Maes, author of A History of Russian Music, lamented that “he lacked the exuberant imagination and subtle aestheticism of [Tchaikovsky],” and wrote that Rachmaninoff’s music was only an expression of “the musical values of the lower strata of the aristocracy.” Despite these remarks, Rachmaninoff’s music is not so easily stereotyped to the late Romantic, “last holdout” idea. Sergei Rachmaninoff, far from a thoughtless imitator, saw the tradition of Russian nationalist art music that came before him, and he used what he found therein to create a style that was entirely personal, and, as will be seen in the analysis of the “Rachmaninoff sixth” chord, occasionally innovative.
Forsythe, Jay, "Rachmaninoff the Harmonist: The "Rachmaninoff Sixth" and its Analysis in His Music" (2023). Honors Program Theses. 198.