A chance to hear the infrequently-programmed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 4, as the San Francisco Symphony and Daniil Trifonov play the work in concert this week at Davies Symphony Hall. It marked a new approach from the composer, but despite its differences, his distinctive voice comes through. The concerts are this afternoon, Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoon.
There’s more information at the San Francisco Symphony website.
“With the fourth concerto, he perhaps wanted to go out of his comfort zone and try something that was not necessarily associated as much with what people associate with his music,” Trifonov says. It was was written just a few years after George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, as much of the world around the composer was changing. “We can hear influences of music of 1920s. And some, maybe jazz influences, maybe a little bit of Gershwin or Ravel, but at the same it’s still very Rachmaninoff… To me, it’s music very much of a time. Like I feel also some even industrial elements in it, in, for example, how the orchestra very often uses certain rhythmical ostinato that brings to mind all of the industrialization that was happening at that time, and it’s much more urban concerto, compared to his other works.” Another way it departed from his past works was in the way he used and wrote for both the soloist and orchestra. “The pianistic writing is already noticeably less full, it’s more scarce, maybe, in the sense that only the most essential elements are in the piano part… But already here, orchestra has a lot of thematic roles, and many places where piano is in the background, or just a part of orchestral texture, for example in development section of finale… The piece also employs orchestra to a much more prominent extent than in his previous concerti, and we’ll see a continuation of that in his next work, which would be the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”