Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Submitted for the qualification of PhD, Technological University Dublin, March 2021.


This thesis explores the evolution of Sergey Rachmaninoff’s five major piano/orchestral works and their revisions, which span most of his career. Composing at the turn of the twentieth century, which was marked by several revolutions, two world wars and changes in musical tastes from romanticism to modernism, Rachmaninoff was often referred to as a ‘conservative’ composer. However, contrary to this categorisation, throughout his musical life he developed a style that has become unique and revolutionary in its own right. This thesis aims to unravel the key arguments at the heart of the conservative-progressive debate and shed new light on Rachmaninoff’s legacy.

To show the development of his writing style and introduction of progressive and novel elements, the thesis offers a comprehensive framework of analysis, situating Rachmaninoff’s works within the context of the continuing evolution of the Romantic piano concerto. It takes Piano Concerto No. 1, written in a traditional romantic form, as a starting point, and analyses the subsequent piano/orchestral works through internal comparison (within and between the piano concertos and their revisions), while also offering external comparisons where necessary. This approach helps trace the transformation of Rachmaninoff’s writing style and goes beyond the argument of similarities and differences between romanticism and modernism. To understand, compare and reveal the hidden nuances of Rachmaninoff’s compositional language, this thesis combines the analysis with a systematic application of charts and tables for all five works. The chronological and comparative analysis as well as a technical and harmonic assessment of the revisions of his concertos shed an extra light on the composer’s legacy and the development of his style.


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