photo by panoramia.com Rachmaninoff Statue, Knoxville TN
Knoxville Tennnessee doesn’t have many claims to fame but it does have a few notable events in its history, the 1982 World’s Fair, the moonshine running roots of Nascar, the home town of a few celebraties and authors. There is one event that has always been important to me, the great Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff played his final concert at the University of Tennessee Alumni Gym 70 years ago this month. He died a few weeks later in California.
I’ve been helping my friend Jane, a fellow music lover, organize a concert to commemorate this great composer on the same stage and date of his final concert. February 17, Evgheny Brakhman an award-winning pianist from Russia is going to play an all Rachmaninoff concert in the Cox Auditorium. We will have several parties and visit the statue of Rachmaninoff at the World’s Fair Park as part this event. I went to the 50th anniversary concert in 1993 before the new auditorium was built. In the audience were a dozen or so people who had attended that final concert 50 years before.
Rachmaninoff and his beautiful music have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. My piano teacher saw Rachmaninoff play in Chattanooga and would tell me stories of that experience. When I got accomplished enough I was required to learn the famous Prelude in C# minor, a devilishly difficult piece that took months to learn and required my long fingers to play large, complicated chords. I can still play the first few measures by memory.
The Friday after 9/11 I had symphony tickets to hear Rachmaninoff’s masterpiece the 2nd Piano Concerto. The Russian pianist Alexander Toradze drove down to play the concert since there were no planes allowed to fly. It was a somber audience that night. The orchestra first played Barber’s Adagio for Strings in memory of the tragedy. During the spectacularly beautiful second movement of the 2nd piano concerto I felt my personal sorrow healed. I will never forget that evening and the healing music gifted to me by the great composer and pianist.
It is popular to say in spiritual circles “we all are intuitive”. Yes, that is true, but that is like saying we can all play the piano. Everyone can play chopsticks, some can play hymns, others can play sonatas but only a very few gifted individuals can play Rachmaninoff. When you come across the teachers and intuitives who are “Rachmaninoffs” your world is changed forever by the mastery and beauty they bring to your life.
Remembering Rachmaninoff: February 17, 2013 8 pm, Cox Auditorium, University of Tennessee, Knoxville