School of Music


Master of Arts in Music Education (MA)


Gabriel Miller


piano concerto, apotheosis, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Romantic Era




This paper compares the piano concertos of Rachmaninoff with Tchaikovsky, noting similarities and differences in the use of long-term structure, inclusion and function of cadenzas, and use of extended harmonies. As one of the last great Romantic composers, Rachmaninoff is often overlooked for his contributions to the Romantic framework, especially considering the massive influence of Tchaikovsky. Following the Soviet Revolution, Rachmaninoff fled to America, where he would be exposed directly to jazz and modern song forms. This paper compares the piano concertos of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, noting Rachmaninoff’s tendency to imitate his colleagues and effects on his harmonic and melodic language. This paper illuminates differences between the harmonic languages of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, confirming compositional frameworks advocated by scholars for Rachmaninoff’s piano concerti while refuting frameworks advocated for Tchaikovsky. It notes the progression of cadenza use as Rachmaninoff broke away from traditional ritornello forms. This paper progresses a framework for understanding Rachmaninoff’s form based on his use of the Neapolitan tonality in the apotheosis of sonata-form movements. Finally, this paper tracks harmonic tonalities throughout the concerti of Rachmaninoff, noting where Rachmaninoff brings in jazz influences to break away from the Romantic idiom. This paper fills a void in the research literature by examining the method of musical transfer across cultures through the piano concerto tradition. Analyzing the orchestral and pianistic works of Rachmaninoff with relation to those of the closest major Romantic composer, Tchaikovsky, helps scholars and music theorists understand the flow of musical intercourse during the early twentieth century.

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