We enjoyed listening on television to Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto played at the Proms by the excellent pianist Simon Trpceski. It’s strange how those famous themes, which once sounded slightly hackneyed to me, no longer seem that way and instead sound full of warmth and charm.
After the performance, Bob was talking about ‘the Russian crescendo’, a concept I hadn’t come across before. Stephen Hough, a supreme Rachmaninov interpreter, writes about it on his blog. Apparently the ‘Russian crescendo’ refers to Rachmaninov’s own piano playing style, in which he often eases off as a long crescendo reaches its climax. Bob said that this type of crescendo struck him as psychologically truer than a simple, inflexible ‘getting louder’. He compared it to climbing a mountain where, when you realize that you’re about to reach the top and see a wonderful view, you instinctively slow down, notice your surroundings and step gently onto the summit rather than pressing on relentlessly with no alteration in your pace. An inspiring image!