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The Lilacs - S. Rachmaninoff

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[Music starts at 3:46]
Needing a break from the din of bad news – the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ascendance of hyper partisanship in my home country, fires in our west, floods in our southeast, the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, and on and on, I recently asked myself, “what is mine to do in these challenging times". One answer that came to me is that I could use what talents I have been given to share beauty with other people – through my music, my writing, and my photography. As was true when I began my Respite project shortly after the beginning of the first pandemic, playing certain pieces have brought me respite – time when I could lose myself in enjoyment of something beautiful.

So, today, I re-start my Respite series with a transcription by Sergei Rachmaninoff of one his own songs, “The Lilacs”, from Op.21, a cycle of twelve songs he composed in 1902, in the hope that, for even a few minutes, you can lose yourself with me in the contemplation and enjoyment of an exquisitely beautiful transcription for solo piano of an equally beautiful song.

I am a fan of Rachmaninoff’s songs, but this is one which I had not played previously with a singer, nor had I heard it before a colleague sent me a recording of Rachmaninoff playing his transcription himself. Researching the original version, I found a word for word translation by Anastasia Witts at Ms. Witts is based in the UK where she maintains an active coaching practice centered on Russian repertoire, and according to her contact page, can be reached at [email protected].

Although the title of the piece as well as the original song text speak of lilacs, I confess that what came most to my mind as I started working on it was how Rachmaninoff captured the sound of high pitched church bells in the initial arpeggiated material in the right hand – joined a few measures later with an ascending melody by lower pitched bells in the left. It is against that backdrop that Rachmaninoff wrote his simply sublime melody. So, for me, the viewing and enjoyment of the lilacs by the observer in the song text is further enhanced by the ringing of bells.

По утру, на заре,
In the morning, at daybreak,
По росистой траве,
over the dewy grass,
Я пойду свежим утром дышать;
I will go to breathe in the crisp dawn;

И в душистую тень,
and in the fragrant shades,
Где теснится сирень,
where the lilacs crowd,
Я пойду свое счастье искать
I will go to seek my happiness...

В жизни счастье одно
In life, only one happiness
Мне найти суждено,
was fated for me to discover,
И то счастье в сирени живёт;
and that happiness lives in the lilacs;

На зелёных ветвях,
on the green boughs,
На душистых кистях
on the fragrant bunches,
Моё бедное счастье цветёт
my poor happiness blossoms...

As always, I hope you find this piece and my playing of it worth hearing. Share, if so moved. More to come as I continue virus free, vaccinated (Pfizer – both shots!), hale and hearty. Best to you and your loved ones as we continue our battle together.

Please help support this project and my #Respite and #UnknownComposersWorthHearing work by clicking on the link, or using the @AndrewKrausPiano id on Venmo. No contracts, no pledges, no ongoing commitments, just a request to help me keep the music coming. Thanks for listening.
Venmo @AndrewKrausPiano
#Respite #UnknownComposersWorthHearing

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