Rachmaninoff on Real Musical Understanding

Apr 13, 2017

Under the heading “Real Musical Understanding,” here’s something that Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote in 1910:

“…Some teachers lay a great deal of stress upon the necessity for the pupil learning the source of the composer’s inspiration. This is interesting, of course, and may help to stimulate a dull imagination..."


" It is a mistake[, however,] to suppose that the knowledge of the fact that Schubert was inspired by a certain poem, or …Chopin…by a certain legend, could ever make up for a lack of the real essentials leading to good [piano] playing. The student must see, first of all, the main points of musical relationship in a composition. He must understand what it is that gives the work unity, cohesion, force, or grace, and must know how to bring out these elements. There is a tendency with some teachers to magnify the importance of auxiliary studies and minimize the importance of essentials. This course is wrong, and must lead to erroneous results.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.