Sergei Rachmaninov is lauded the world over as one of the most popular composers of piano music. His works for solo piano and the famous concerti are staples of the concert hall and the greatest pianists. The demonic third concerto even had a movie mad about it, Shine, starring Australia's own Geoffrey Rush.
What is not that well known, however, is that Rachmaninov had many ties to the Mason & Hamlin company.
In 1909, Rachmaninov was preparing for his first tour of the United States and needed the finest piano to perform and record his second concerto on. His choice was a Mason & Hamlin. This began a long association with the company. What is also largely forgotten these days is that Rachmaninov signed a contract with the American Piano Company shortly after moving to the US to produce piano rolls that could be sold to owners of the thousands of pianola's that were the staple of home entertainment.
In all, over a period of ten years Rachmaninov recorded 35 such rolls, covering repertoire as diverse as Bach (from his 4th Partita), to Beethoven, his own compositions and transcriptions of such favourites as 'Flight of the Bumble Bee'. Every single one of these recordings was captured with the great artist at the keyboard of a 1918 Mason & Hamlin.
Now, those Ampico rolls have been digitised and converted for modern electronic player piano systems and Mason & Hamlin artist Jason Solomonides has created a video covering nearly an hour of Rachmaninov's piano rolls being recreated on his modern Mason & Hamlin BB.
This incredible technology allows us to transport ourselves to a bygone era and peel back the curtain on a forgotten age of the great virtuoso.
A complete list of the repertoire featured:
Rimsky-Korsakov/Rachmaninoff "Flight of the Bumblebee" - Ampico 70301; Recorded: 1-Feb-1929 Paderewski Minuet in G, Op 14, No 1 - Ampico 68283; Recorded: 1-Feb-1927 Bach Sarabande, Partita No 4, BWV 828 - Ampico 66483; Recorded: 14-Jan-1925 Kreisler-Rachmaninov Liebesleid ("Love Song") - Ampico 62103; Recorded: 6-Apr-1922 Kreisler-Rachmaninov Liebesfreud ("Love's Joy") - Ampico 66143; Recorded: 22-Dec-1925 Rachmaninov Humoresque in G, Op 10, No 5 - Ampico 57965; Recorded: 17-Mar-1919 Rachmaninov Elegie in Ebm, Op 3, No 1 - Ampico 69253; Recorded: 4-Apr-1928 Rachmaninov Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, Op 3, No 2 - Ampico 57504; Recorded: 17-Mar-1919 Rachmaninov Prelude in G Minor, Op 23, No 5 - Ampico 57525; Recorded: 17-Mar-1919 Rachmaninov Etude-Tableau in Bm, Op 39, No 4 - Ampico 69593; Recorded: 27-Mar-1928 Rachmaninov Etude-Tableau in Am, Op 39, No 6 - Ampico 60891; Recorded: 5-Mar-1921 Rachmaninov Polka de V.R. ('Vasilly Rachmaninoff') - Ampico 57275; Recorded: 17-Mar-1919 Gluck/Sgambati Melodie (from Orfeo ed Euridice) - Ampico 64921; Recorded: 14-Jan-1925 Beethoven/Rubinstein Turkish March (from Ruins of Athens) - Ampico 68771; Recorded: 1-Feb-1927
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!