Download Full Text (9.8 MB)
Grant Asklar, MUS303: Music History 2
Faculty Mentor(s): Professor Carolyn Guzski, Music
Inspired by Russian composers such as Nikolai Zverev, Alexander Ziloti, and especially Pyotyr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the late Romantic-era composer Serge Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) composed his Cello Sonata, op. 19. The piece was written in 1901 after the composer suffered a serious bout of depression, following the premiere of his unsuccessful Symphony No. 1. Among Rachmaninoff's many compositions that utilized full orchestra, including piano concertos and the Symphonic Dances, this was his only chamber work for cello and piano. This Cello Sonata has become standard performance repertoire among the world's great cellists, including the highly acclaimed Mstislav Rostropovich. What drew me to the piece is the transcription for baritone saxophone by Steven Banks, which he premiered with pianist Chen-Shen Fan at the Music Institute of Chicago in 2016. As a saxophonist, I hope to take on this “beast” of a piece in performance myself, hoping to encapsulate Steven Banks' expression, tone, and control over the instrument in expressing Rachmaninoff's Russian Romantic idiom. In my analysis, I hope to reveal Rachmaninoff's historical inspirations and influences, such as the Russian "Mighty Handful," for this iconic sonata.
Asklar, Grant, "Rachmaninoff: Out of the Darkness" (2021). Arts. 25.