Rachmaninov composed these seven Salon pieces beginning probably in the latter half of December 1893 and finished them by early February 1894. The style of them is varied, coming early enough in his career for some to sound immature or derivative in certain passages.
The first, Nocturne in A minor, is Tchaikovskyan in its themes and reminiscent of Chopin in its writing. It does feature Rachmaninov's trademark melancholy, however. The next piece, Valse in A, may be marginally superior, but still not of great interest. Here the influence of Chopin can also be heard, and while the music is pleasant and colorful enough, it is not particularly distinctive.
The third, Barcarolle in G minor, is probably the best known piece in the set. It features an attractive and typically melancholy, Russian melody, with nervous-sounding accompaniment that imparts a haunting atmosphere. Mélodie in E minor follows, and offers an appealing theme, with arpeggiated chordal accompaniment of some interest. No. 5, the Humoresque in G, is bright and features one of those stately Rachmaninovian themes. Overall, however, the music is not memorable, though the composer liked it and played it frequently. He made minor revisions to it in 1940.
The Romance in F minor that follows is sweet and attractive but overlong and not among the better entries here. The closing piece, Mazurka in D flat, is more appealing on just about every level. While it ultimately is not a great masterpiece, it is colorful and contains humor, not an ingredient one often finds in Rachmaninov. The music is not derivative, despite the fact that its form is taken from Chopin. There are many unexpected thematic and harmonic surprises throughout, and the bright mood and colors are most engaging.