April 1, 1873: Sergey Vasilyevich Rakhmaninov is born on the Oneg estate, near Semyonova, in the Russian province of Novgorod, the fourth of six children born to Vasily Arkadyevich Rakhmaninov, a retired army officer, and Lyubov Petrovna Butakova, daughter of a general. Both parents are descended from wealthy landowners.
March 8, 1891: Sergey Rakhmaninov (17) makes his conducting debut at a student concert at the Moscow Conservatory. He conducts his own Deus meus motet for chorus. Two string quartet movements by Rakhmaninov are premiered, arranged for string orchestra, a Romance in g minor and a Scherzo in D major.
June 5, 1891: Sergey Rakhmaninov (18) passes his piano examination with honors at Moscow Conservatory, a year early.
October 29, 1891: Russian Rhapsody for two pianos by Sergey Rakhmaninov (18) is performed for the first time, at Moscow Conservatory, the composer at one keyboard.
February 11, 1892: Two new chamber works by Sergey Rakhmaninov (18) are performed for the first time, as part of his first concert not at the conservatory, in Vostriakov Hall, Moscow: Trio élégiaque no.1 for piano and strings, and Prelude for cello and piano op.2/1.
March 29, 1892: At a student concert at Moscow Conservatory, the first movement of Sergey Rakhmaninov’s (18) First Piano Concerto is premiered. The composer interrupts the conductor, Vasily Ilyich Safonov several times to instruct him in its correct interpretation.
April 3, 1892: Sergey Rakhmaninov (19) receives the subject of his graduation exercise from Moscow Conservatory, the libretto to a one-act opera named Aleko by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko after a poem by Pushkin. Rakhmaninov is so excited he runs all the way home to get started on the music.
May 19, 1892: Sergey Rakhmaninov (19) plays his setting of the one-act opera Aleko for the examiners at Moscow Conservatory. He is awarded the gold medal. See 9 May 1893.
June 10, 1892: Sergey Rakhmaninov (19) receives a diploma from the Moscow Conservatory making him a “free artist.”
October 8, 1892: Prelude in c# minor for piano op.3/2 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (19) is performed for the first time, in Moscow by the composer.
January 9, 1893: Morceaux de fantaisie op.3, five piano pieces by Sergey Rakhmaninov (19), are performed together for the first time, in Kharkov by the composer.
February 8, 1893: Two of the Six Songs op.4 for voice and piano by Sergey Rakhmaninov (19) are performed for the first time, in Kharkov, the composer at the keyboard: Oh no, I beseech you, do not depart! to words of Merezhkovsky, and In the Silence of the Night to words of Fet.
March 3, 1893: Dances from the unperformed opera Aleko by Sergey Rakhmaninov (19) are performed for the first time, in Moscow. See 9 May 1893.
May 9, 1893: Aleko, an opera by Sergey Rakhmaninov (20) to words of Nemirovich-Danchenko after Pushkin, is performed publicly for the first time, at the Bolshoy Theatre, Moscow. See 19 May 1892.
December 12, 1893: Fantasia for two pianos op.5 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (20) is performed for the first time, in Moscow. The composer plays one part.
December 24, 1893: O Mother of God, Vigilantly Praying for chorus by Sergey Rakhmaninov (20) is performed for the first time, in Moscow.
January 31, 1894: The last four of the Seven Pieces op.10 for piano by Sergey Rakhmaninov (20) are performed for the first time, in Moscow.
February 12, 1894: Trio élégiaque (no.2) op.9 for piano and strings by Sergey Rakhmaninov (20), to the memory of Tchaikovsky (†0), is performed for the first time, in Moscow the composer at the keyboard. After working on it for two months he wrote, “It is a composition on the death of a great artist. How earnestly, intensely, and painstakingly I have worked. However such things only go well for priests and pathologists!” (Scott, 43)
April 1, 1894: The Rock, a symphonic poem by Sergey Rakhmaninov, is performed for the first time, in Moscow on the composer’s 21st birthday.
December 4, 1895: Caprice bohémien op.12 for orchestra by Sergey Rakhmaninov (22) is performed for the first time, in Moscow the composer conducting.
March 27, 1897: Symphony no.1 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (23) is performed for the first time, in the Hall of the Nobility, St. Petersburg, conducted by Alyeksandr Glazunov (31). The work is a disaster, partly due to the performance, partly due to the music. Rakhmaninov can not force himself to enter the auditorium, hiding on the stairs to the balcony and pressing his fists to his ears, finally running out into the street. He will later blame the conductor. “…all my hopes, all belief in myself, had been destroyed; abject misery had taken the place of my former arrogance.” (Scott, 48)
February 13, 1899: In a state of nervous depression, Sergey Rakhmaninov (25) meets Lev Tolstoy for the first time.
April 19, 1899: Sergey Rakhmaninov (26) makes his London debut, conducting and playing his music in Queen’s Hall. It is his first significant performance outside Russia.
January 22, 1900: Sergey Rakhmaninov (26) and Fyodor Ivanovich Chaliapin visit the home of Tolstoy. They perform some songs including Fate. The writer responds by asking the point of the music. “Beethoven is nonsense. So too is Pushkin and Lermontov.” He calls Apukhtin’s poem Fate “abominable.”
March 22, 1900: Sergey Rakhmaninov’s (26) song Fate, for voice and piano to words of Apukhtin, is performed publicly for the first time, in the Hall of the Nobility, Moscow, the composer at the keyboard. The audience calls for it to be encored.
December 15, 1900: The second and third movements of Piano Concerto no.2 op.18 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (27) are performed for the first time, in Moscow, the composer at the keyboard. It is a success and encourages him to complete the first movement. See 9 November 1901.
November 9, 1901: The Second Piano Concerto of Sergey Rakhmaninov (28) is given its first complete performance, in Moscow, with the composer at the piano. It is well received. He is now financially solvent. See 15 December 1900.
December 7, 1901: The Suite no.2 for two pianos, by Sergey Rakhmaninov (28) is performed for the first time, by Alexander Siloti and the composer, in Moscow.
December 15, 1901: The Cello Sonata op.19 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (28) is performed for the first time, in Moscow, by cellist Anatol Brandukov and the composer at the piano.
March 24, 1902: The cantata Spring, for baritone, chorus, and orchestra, by Sergey Rakhmaninov (28) to words of Nekrasov, is performed for the first time, in Moscow.
May 12, 1902: Sergey Rakhmaninov (29) marries his first cousin, Natalya Alyeksandrovna Satina, his first cousin, in the chapel of the 6th Tavrichesky Regiment, outside Moscow.
February 10, 1903: Ten Preludes for piano op.23 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (29), are performed for the first time, in Moscow.
February 23, 1903: Variations on a Theme of Chopin op.22, a piano work by Sergey Rakhmaninov (29), is performed for the first time, by the composer, at a concert for the Ladies Charity Prison Committee in Moscow.
December 10, 1904: Among the recipients of the Glinka Prizes awarded today are Sergey Rakhmaninov (31) for his Second Piano Concerto and Alyeksandr Skyrabin (32) for his third and fourth Piano Sonatas.
December 9, 1905: Salome op.54, a Musikdrama by Richard Strauss (41) to words of Oscar Wilde (tr. Lachmann), is performed for the first time, at the Dresden Court Opera. The audience, including Sergey Rakhmaninov (32) and Arturo Toscanini, awards 40 curtain calls. Although one critic called it the “ultimate in salacious and blasphemous art”, the opera is a great success.
January 24, 1906: Sergey Rakhmaninov (32) conducts premieres of two of his operas at the Bolshoy Theatre, Moscow: The Miserly Knight op.24 to words of Pushkin and Francesca da Rimini op.25 to words of Modest Tchaikovsky after Dante.
February 26, 1906: Due to the uneasy political situation, Sergey Rakhmaninov (32) finds it unwise to be attached to a state institution like the Bolshoy Theatre. He resigns his position today and leaves for a vacation in Italy.
November 9, 1906: Due to the political unrest in Russia, Sergey Rakhmaninov (33) and his family take up residence in Dresden.
February 25, 1907: Fifteen Songs op.26 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (33) are performed for the first time, in Moscow.
February 8, 1908: The Second Symphony of Sergey Rakhmaninov (34) is performed for the first time, in St. Petersburg, conducted by the composer.
October 27, 1908: Letter to KS Stanislavsky from S. Ra., a song by Sergey Rakhmaninov (35), is performed for the first time, in Moscow.
October 30, 1908: The Piano Sonata no.1 of Sergey Rakhmaninov (35) is performed for the first time, in Moscow.
May 1, 1909: The Isle of the Dead, a symphonic poem by Sergey Rakhmaninov (36), is performed for the first time, in Moscow, conducted by the composer.
November 4, 1909: Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) makes his American debut at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. It is his first solo recital anywhere.
November 8, 1909: Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) performs at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, playing his Second Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony.
November 26, 1909: On his North American tour, Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) conducts the Boston Symphony in Philadelphia.
November 28, 1909: The Piano Concerto no.3 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) is performed for the first time, in New York, with Walter Damrosch on the podium and the composer at the piano. Critics are warm but not ecstatic.
December 3, 1909: On his North American tour, Sergey Rakhmaninov plays his Second Piano Concerto in Chicago and conducts the Theodore Thomas Orchestra in The Isle of the Dead.
December 17, 1909: Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) appears in Boston, playing and conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
January 9, 1910: Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) appears at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in a concert made up entirely of his works.
January 27, 1910: Sergey Rakhmaninov (36) ends his first American tour in New York where he conducts The Isle of the Dead and plays the solo part of his Piano Concerto no.2.
December 8, 1910: The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for chorus by Sergey Rakhmaninov (37) is performed for the first time, in Moscow. This most sacred work is produced in a secular concert, the religious authorities not having reacted well to the music of Rakhmaninov.
December 18, 1911: Thirteen Preludes op.32 for piano by Sergey Rakhmaninov (38) are performed for the first time, in St. Petersburg, by the composer.
December 23, 1911: In the Great Nobleman’s Hall, Moscow, Alyeksandr Skryabin (39) and Sergey Rakhmaninov (38) perform a joint concert. Skryabin plays the first half as pianist while Rakhmaninov conducts in the second half. The audience is filled with partisans of the two who see the evening as a rivalry between the performers and each other. The antagonists are a microcosm of Russian artistic thought: Slavophiles follow Rakhmaninov while cosmopolitans support Skryabin.
June 10, 1912: Sergey Rakhmaninov (39) resigns for a second time as vice-president of the Russian Musical Society.
December 13, 1913: Kolokola (The Bells) op.35, a choral symphony by Sergey Rakhmaninov (40) to words of Balmont after Poe, is performed for the first time, in St. Petersburg, the composer conducting.
December 16, 1913: Sergey Rakhmaninov’s (40) Piano Sonata no.2 op.36 is performed for the first time, in Moscow, the composer at the keyboard.
March 23, 1915: All Night Vigil op.37, for chorus by Sergey Rakhmaninov (41), is performed for the first time, in the Great Hall of the Nobility, Moscow.
April 29, 1915: Funeral services for Alyeksandr Skryabin are held in the Church of the Miracle Worker in Moscow. Because of the great desire of the public to attend, tickets are issued. Among those attending are his sometime rival, Sergey Rakhmaninov (42). Rakhmaninov will play a number of recitals of Skryabin’s music for the benefit of his widow. The earthly remains of Alyeksandr Skryabin are laid to rest in Novodevichy Cemetery.
February 6, 1916: The revised version of Sergey Rakhmaninov’s (42) Vocalise, for voice and piano, is performed for the first time.
February 8, 1916: Fourteen Songs op.34 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (42) are performed for the first time, in Moscow, the composer at the keyboard.
November 6, 1916: The Six Songs op.38 of Sergey Rakhmaninov (43) are performed for the first time, in Moscow, the composer at the piano.
December 12, 1916: Eight of the nine Etudes-Tableaux op.39 for piano by Sergey Rakhmaninov (43) are performed for the first time, in Petrograd, by the composer.
January 20, 1917: Sergey Rakhmaninov (43) conducts in Russia for the last time, at the Bolshoy Theatre, Moscow.
March 11, 1917: During the afternoon in Moscow, Sergey Rakhmaninov (43) gives a recital, half the proceeds to benefit the sick and wounded of the Russian army.
March 12, 1917: When Sergey Rakhmaninov (43) receives his fee of 1,000 rubles for the recital he gave yesterday, he gives it to benefit released political prisoners and to buy gifts for the army of “my now liberated country.”
September 18, 1917: In Yalta, Sergey Rakhmaninov (44) makes his last appearance in Russia, performing Liszt’s (†31) E flat Piano Concerto.
November 6, 1917: Armed Bolsheviks seize railway stations, bridges, the state bank, and telephone exchange in and around Petrograd. The pro-Bolshevik crew of the battleship Aurora anchors its ship in the Neva River adjacent to the Winter Palace, the seat of the provisional government. Hard at work on the revision of his Piano Concerto no.1, Sergey Rakhmaninov barely notices the fighting.
December 28, 1917: A Moscow newspaper announces that Sergey Rakhmaninov (44) is leaving the city for a concert tour of Scandinavia “lasting more than two months.”
January 6, 1918: Sergey Rakhmaninov (44) and his wife arrive in Stockholm from Petrograd. He has been requested to appear in Stockholm by a Swedish concert manager.
February 15, 1918: Sergey Rakhmaninov (44) makes his first appearance as an emigre artist, in Copenhagen with the Copenhagen Symphony Orchestra.
November 1, 1918: The Norwegian ship Bergensfjord, with Sergey Rakhmaninov (45) and his wife aboard, steams out of Christiania (Oslo) for the United States. The composer has three offers in the US, but no definite plans, except to get away from Europe.
December 8, 1918: Sergey Rakhmaninov (45) makes his first concert appearance in the United States since leaving Europe, in Providence, Rhode Island. He is in the process of recovering from influenza.
March 17, 1919: Sergey Rakhmaninov (45) records nine rolls of recordings for the American Piano Co. (Ampico). These are his first recordings of any kind.
April 18, 1919: On this date, Sergey Rakhmaninov (46) begins six days during which he makes his first gramophone recordings, consisting of five double-sided records, for Thomas Edison.
April 27, 1919: Sergey Rakhmaninov (46) and Jascha Heifetz appear at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, at an event to support the Victory Liberty Loan. Both perform set pieces and then auction their encores to the highest bidder. Rakhmaninov receives a bid of $1,000,000 for his Prelude in c# minor. However, the high bidder is Ampico, a small reproducing piano company who has Rakhmaninov under contract. They do it for the publicity.
April 21, 1920: Sergey Rakhmaninov (47) signs a five-year exclusive contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company to record 25 pieces. He is guaranteed at least $15,000 a year and will remain with Victor through 1942.
January 22, 1922: Sergey Rakhmaninov (48) receives his first American honor, a DMus from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
February 12, 1924: “An experiment in modern music” takes place in Aeolian Hall, New York when Rhapsody in Blue for piano and jazz band by George Gershwin (25) is performed for the first time, the composer at the piano. Among the overflow audience is Ernest Bloch (43), Sergey Rakhmaninov (50), John Philip Sousa (69), Walter Damrosch, Willem Mengelberg, Leopold Stokowski, Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Mary Garden, John McCormack, and Leopold Godowsky. Critics are strongly divided, but the Whiteman band (who plays today) will perform the Rhapsody 84 times in 1924 alone. Also on the program is the premiere of Suite of Serenades for orchestra by Victor Herbert (65). This is the last appearance of Herbert as composer.
January 16, 1925: Sergey Rakhmaninov (51) performs for a second time at the White House for President Coolidge.
March 18, 1927: Piano Concerto no.4 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (53) is performed for the first time, at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, the composer at the keyboard. The critics are unanimous in their scorn. Also on the program is the premiere of Rakhmaninov’s Three Russian Songs op.41 for chorus and orchestra which fares much better.
March 30, 1927: Sergey Rakhmaninov performs for a third time at the White House for President Coolidge, two days before his 54th birthday.
January 2, 1928: Vladimir Horowitz meets Sergey Rakhmaninov (54) for the first time, in the basement of Steinway’s in New York, where the pianos are stored. Horowitz, who will give his American debut in ten days, plays through Rakhmaninov’s Third Concerto while the composer plays a reduction of the orchestral part. Rakhmaninov is impressed and makes some suggestions.
January 24, 1928: In a private demonstration in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, New York, organized by Walter Damrosch, Edsel Ford, Fritz Kreisler, and others, Lev Sergeyevich Termen (Leon Theremin) (31) performs upon his new electronic musical instrument before invited guests including Sergey Rakhmaninov (54), Arturo Toscanini, and Joseph Szigeti.
August 27, 1928: Lev Sergeyevich Termen (Leon Theremin) (32) and three of his students perform upon four of the new electronic musical instruments with the New York Philharmonic in Lewisohn Stadium. Among the works on the program are the Vocalise of Sergey Rakhmaninov (55) and Hungarian Rhapsody no.1 by Franz Liszt (†42).
January 12, 1931: In an unusual political outburst, Sergey Rakhmaninov (57), together with two other Russian expatriates, writes an open letter to the New York Times attacking suggestions that certain achievements have been made by the Soviet regime.
January 15, 1931: The open letter sent 12 January by Sergey Rakhmaninov (57), Ivan Ostromislensky, and Count Ilya Tolstoy appears in the New York Times. “At no time, and in no country, has there ever existed a government responsible for so many cruelties, wholesale murders, and common law crimes in general as those perpetrated by the Bolsheviki.”
March 9, 1931: Evening Moscow publishes an attack on Sergey Rakhmaninov (57) for his letter of 12 January. His music is banned for performance and study in the Soviet Union. The ban will be lifted in 1933.
October 12, 1931: Variations on a Theme of Corelli for piano by Sergey Rakhmaninov (58) is performed for the first time, by the composer in Montreal.
November 12, 1931: Three Pieces for piano by Sergey Rakhmaninov (58) is performed for the first time, at the Juilliard School, New York by the composer.
November 7, 1934: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini for piano and orchestra by Sergey Rakhmaninov (61) is performed for the first time, in Baltimore the composer at the keyboard. It is an immediate success.
July 1, 1936: Bothered with symptoms of arthritis, Sergey Rakhmaninov (63) and his wife travel to Aix-les-Bains to take the cure.
November 6, 1936: Symphony no.3 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (63) is performed for the first time, in Philadelphia. The response is “lukewarm.”
August 11, 1939: At the Lucerne International Music Festival, Sergey Rakhmaninov (66) performs in Europe for the last time.
August 23, 1939: At Cherbourg, France, Sergey Rakhmaninov (66) boards ship for America. He will never see Europe again.
January 3, 1941: Symphonic Dances op.45 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (67) is performed for the first time, at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia.
November 1, 1941: Sergey Rakhmaninov (68) plays a benefit recital at Carnegie Hall for Russian relief charities.
February 1, 1943: Sergey Rakhmaninov (69) and his wife receive the final papers creating them American citizens.
February 17, 1943: Sergey Rakhmaninov (69) gives his last performance, in Knoxville. He is so ill afterward that he is forced to return home to Los Angeles.
February 26, 1943: Sergey Rakhmaninov (69) arrives home in Los Angeles after a train ride of 60 hours from New Orleans.
March 27, 1943: A cable arrives at Sergey Rakhmaninov’s (69) Beverly Hills home congratulating him on his 70th birthday. It is signed by several notable Soviet composers.
March 28, 1943: 01:30 Sergey Vasilyevich Rakhmaninov dies of skin cancer at his home at 610 Elm Drive in Beverly Hills, California, USA, four days before his 70th birthday.
March 30, 1943: A funeral mass in honor of Sergey Rakhmaninov takes place in the Los Angeles Russian Orthodox Church. His earthly remains will be buried in Kensico Cemetery near Valhalla, New York.
November 2, 1945: Two early orchestral works by Sergey Rakhmaninov (†2) are performed for the first time, in Moscow: Scherzo in d minor, composed in 1887, and the symphonic poem Prince Rostislav, composed in 1891.
April 11, 1958: Van Cliburn plays the Third Piano Concerto of Sergey Rakhmaninov (†15) at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition at Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow. His performance meets with uproarious applause. Through the competition he has become the idol of the city.
April 2, 1973: Six Choruses for women’s or children’s voices with piano op.15 by Sergey Rakhmaninov (†30) are performed for the first time, in Moscow, 77 years after they were composed, during the centennial year of the composer’s birth.
June 18, 1982: A reconstruction of the smaller of the two houses of the estate at Ivanovka, where Sergey Rakhmaninov (†39) did a good deal of composing, is opened to the public as a museum. Rakhmaninov’s estate was completely destroyed in 1917 during the revolution. See 24 September 1995.
August 11, 1984: Act I of Monna Vanna, an opera by Sergey Rakhmaninov (†41) to words of Slonov, after Maeterlinck, is performed for the first time, in a concert setting in the Saratoga, New York Performing Arts Center 77 years after it was composed. The work exists only in piano score and was orchestrated by Igor Buketov.