Sergey Rachmaninov

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Rachmaninov composed this work in 1900, and played the first complete performance on November 9, 1901, with Alexandre Siloti conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Society.

    He suffered a shattering career crisis in the 1897 massacre of his First Symphony in St. Petersburg, by its first conductor, Glazunov, who was reportedly disablingly drunk -- a fiasco the critics en masse, led by César Cui, laid at the composer's feet like an animal carcass. The audience -- ever mindful that Rachmaninov had been expelled in 1885 from the local temple of musical instruction -- listened stonily, glad for the failure of a young lion schooled elsewhere (in Moscow, he completed the Conservatory course in 1891, and graduated a year later with highest possible grades). Because of the failure of the Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninov began to drink immoderately. Believing himself unfit to compose, he tried concentrating on parallel courses as a concert soloist and opera conductor, but embroiled himself in a love affair that ended very badly. By the end of 1899, he was an alcoholic whose hands shook, imperiling his keyboard career. Between January and April 1900, Sergey Vassilyevich saw Dr. Dahl, a Moscow specialist in "neuropsychotherapy," daily, and was urged under hypnosis to compose the new piano concerto that a London impresario was asking for. Trance therapy roused the composer from his lethargy; indeed, he worked with great facility on an excellent new concerto -- the Second, in C minor, Op. 18 -- dedicated to Dr. Dahl in gratitude. Never again in the remaining four decades of his life was Rachmaninov immobilized by depression, despite several convulsive changes of fortune.

    The opening, C minor, movement in sonata form was composed last; structurally it is the most conventional. Ten bars of unaccompanied keyboard chords lead directly to a palpitant principal theme for violins, violas, and clarinets -- motivic rather than tuneful, despite a melismatic extension for cellos. An episode links this to the second theme, in E flat, one of Rachmaninov's most celebrated melodies, introduced by the piano. Following the development and a maestoso alla marcia reprise, there's a brilliant coda -- but no solo cadenza, yet.

    In the E major, Adagio sostenuto movement, after four bars of Tchaikovskian string chords, piano arpeggios introduce a two-part principal theme, played first by the solo flute, then by the solo clarinet. Piano and orchestra develop both parts before a Tchaikovsky-like theme for bassoons nudges the tempo a bit. Further development goes even quicker, culminating in a solo cadenza that's been teasingly postponed, after which the original material returns, soulfully.

    The finale is an Allegro scherzando in C major. The strings play a rhythmic figure that builds to a staccato climax. The piano enters with a flourish, setting up the principal subject -- again, as before in I, motivic rather than tuneful, but admirably constructed for developing. This is followed by another of Rachmaninov's signature melodies, lushly undulant, sung by the solo oboe and strings. (In the postwar 1940s, this was garnished with words and performed unrelentingly by big-band vandals as Full Moon and Empty Arms). A fugato brings back the principal subject, followed by a Maestoso statement of "The Tune." Accelerating fistfuls of piano chords set up a crowd-rousing conclusion.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Moderato
    2. Adagio sostenuto
    3. Allegro scherzando

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2021
    Hänssler Classic
    HC 20046
    2020
    Decca
    4850219
    2020
    ABC Classics
    2019
    Warner Classics
    0190295455514
    2018
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4835335
    2018
    LPO
    LPO 0102
    2018
    Raven Records
    OAR 155
    2018
    BIS
    BIS 2338
    2018
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    95520
    2018
    Menuetto Classics
    null
    2018
    Erato
    0190295673901
    2018
    Warner Classics
    566686
    2017
    ABC / ABC Classics
    2017
    Warner Classics
    0190295886691
    2017
    Decca / Eloquence
    ELQ 4826291
    2017
    Marfer / Zebralution
    2017
    Sony Classical
    88985402412
    2017
    IBA [Idil Biret Archives]
    8501065
    2017
    Decca
    4814393
    2017
    Alpha
    275
    2017
    Mariinsky
    MAR 0599
    2017
    Naxos
    8573629
    2017
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2017
    Supraphon
    SU 42162
    2016
    Sonoma
    1482849
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    002894795516
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2016
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13037
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0825646480401
    2016
    Erato
    0190295954697
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795448
    2015
    Cleopatra
    CLOCD 0027
    2015
    RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical
    88875127202
    2015
    Piano Classics
    PCL 0081
    2015
    CAvi-music
    AVI 8553335
    2015
    Claudio
    CB 60272
    2015
    Steinway & Sons
    30047
    2015
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    PHR 0104
    2015
    Alto / Musical Concepts
    MCSCD 6005
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    002894795229
    2014
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    ABC 4811324
    2014
    Various Artists
    Avalon
    62311
    2014
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    2564622737
    2014
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    01367
    2014
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    BM 312455
    2014
    Broken Audio
    BRAU 1156
    2014
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    GHCD 2423
    2014
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    MELCD 1002128
    2014
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    4793631
    2014
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    2564627827
    2014
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    4786348
    2014
    Decca
    2014
    Broken Audio
    BRAU 1155
    2014
    Decca
    4786765
    2014
    Decca
    B002033502
    2014
    ABC Classics
    4811322
    2014
    Archipel
    ARPCD 0543
    2014
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    88843045052
    2014
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    APR 5505
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4792236
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2013
    Muso
    MU 005
    2013
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    BRAU 0910
    2013
    Decca
    4785437
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2013
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    88765492602
    2013
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    BRAU 0950
    2013
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    B001811702
    2013
    Decca
    2013
    Decca
    2013
    Various Artists
    AAO Music
    PWM 71262
    2013
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    RRC 1402
    2013
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    88725462392
    2013
    Decca
    4785093
    2012
    EMI Classics
    2012
    EMI Classics
    5099967908
    2012
    Various Artists
    BD Jazz / Zebralution
    2012
    Various Artists
    Naxos
    8501056
    2012
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    001653302
    2012
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    5099931938525
    2012
    Warner Classics
    2012
    Decca
    4783361
    2012
    Decca
    2012
    Warner Classics
    2012
    Decca
    2012
    Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO
    RPM 29210
    2012
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    2012
    Praga
    DSD 350056
    2012
    Melodiya
    MELCD 1002017
    2012
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    4790058
    2012
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    2012
    Concerto / Zebralution
    2011
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    886919369120
    2011
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    PTC 5186444
    2011
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    5099990714
    2011
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    94095
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    2011
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    15338
    2011
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    72371
    2011
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    1037
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    5099908519
    2011
    EMI Classics
    918726
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    2011
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    1208
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    2011
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    NI 1720
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    2011
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    233080
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    CC72383
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    5099968582
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    155
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    2211
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    2192
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    2010
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    14
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    4778167
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    URN 22377
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    5099969759
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    4778122
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    69148
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    4765900
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    5099921750
    2008
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    80737
    2008
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    0734399
    2008
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    385265
    2008
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    1000993
    2008
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    474171
    2008
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    4399302
    2008
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    26308
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    Madacy
    52954
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    Madacy
    52952
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    48030
    2008
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    6981
    2008
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    5099951203
    2008
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    4780108
    2007
    Various Artists
    EMI Music Distribution
    2007
    Jim Hendricks
    2007
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    CDRSN3096
    2007
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    2326
    2007
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    0946392747
    2007
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    8478
    2007
    Living Era Classics
    2014
    2007
    APR (Appian)
    6005
    2007
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    12807
    2007
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    2007
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    5099950087
    2007
    Hyperion
    CDA67649
    2007
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    2007
    Regis Records
    1270
    2007
    Haenssler
    98259
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4429484
    2007
    Berlin Classics
    0186002
    2007
    Apex
    2007
    Decca
    4758548
    2006
    Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006
    Warner Classics
    63265
    2006
    Decca
    4757221
    2006
    Decca
    2006
    Edel Records
    2832
    2006
    Arte Nova
    797600
    2006
    Brilliant
    7794
    2006
    Classical Records
    18
    2006
    Gramola
    98796
    2006
    Universal
    2006
    Mirare
    8
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4762153
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution
    44011
    2006
    Warner Music
    2564 63675-2
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243476948
    2006
    Warner Classics
    2006
    Decca
    4757550
    2006
    Berlin Classics
    0185582
    2006
    RCA
    67892
    2006
    Virgin
    82128
    2006
    Kind Of Blue
    KOB 10004
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    99668
    2005
    Audio Archive Classics / MediaTag
    17
    2005
    Decca
    4756786
    2005
    Brilliant
    92614
    2005
    JVC Compact Discs
    24024
    2005
    Resonance
    3050
    2005
    Urania
    4229
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000427836
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    5869922
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Decca
    4767701
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243474813
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Warner Classics
    61946
    2005
    Chandos
    24130
    2005
    APR (Appian)
    5625
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Virgin Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Vanguard Classics
    1769
    2005
    Brilliant
    92293
    2005
    Andante
    AN 2090
    2004
    NM Classics
    97018
    2004
    Brilliant
    92122
    2004
    Various Artists
    Intersound
    5884
    2004
    RCA
    55269
    2004
    Mercury
    4706392
    2004
    Crystonyx Productions
    1005
    2004
    High Definition Classics
    023
    2004
    EMI Classics
    85779
    2004
    Brilliant
    6214
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000185802
    2004
    Naxos
    554376
    2004
    Naxos
    6110013
    2004
    Naxos
    5110013
    2004
    Hyperion
    67501/2
    2004
    Hyperion
    67501/2SACD
    2004
    Delta Distribution
    16329
    2004
    Berlin Classics
    0013422BC
    2004
    Avid
    585
    2004
    RCA Red Seal
    61392
    2004
    EMI Classics
    85705
    2003
    Decca
    473601
    2003
    Brilliant
    92117
    2003
    Angelok 1
    9928
    2003
    Decca
    473251
    2003
    ASV
    6128
    2003
    PentaTone Classics
    5186114
    2003
    Decca
    000055202
    2003
    Archipel
    0104
    2003
    Sony Classical
    87283
    2003
    Various Artists
    Delta Distribution
    40040
    2003
    Chandos
    10078
    2003
    Various Artists
    History
    45515
    2002
    Various Artists
    Decca
    470457
    2002
    Brana Records
    0012
    2002
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243575510
    2002
    Naxos Historical
    8110692
    2002
    Vox Music Masters
    90112
    2002
    Naxos
    110676
    2001
    St. Clair
    7313
    2001
    EMI Classics
    74667
    2001
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    203295
    2001
    St. Clair
    7357
    2001
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    811
    2001
    Philips
    4689212
    2001
    CBC Records
    5108
    2001
    Teldec
    84376
    2001
    Classica d'Oro
    3002
    2001
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    89734
    2001
    Sony Classical / Sony Classical Essential Classics
    89734
    2001
    Black Box Classics
    3001
    2001
    Naxos
    8 505177
    2001
    Rca Red Seal
    63015
    2001
    Rca Red Seal
    63060
    2001
    Audiophile Classics
    101542
    2000
    Music & Arts
    4250
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    73765
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469178
    2000
    Rca Red Seal
    902668992
    2000
    Amadis
    7150
    2000
    EMI Classics
    2000
    Decca
    467453
    2000
    Naxos
    8501005
    2000
    Rca Red Seal
    63035
    2000
    Angel Records
    67315
    2000
    T-Rax
    33
    2000
    Virgin
    61207
    2000
    Decca
    1999
    Philips
    4569072
    1999
    Philips
    456850
    1999
    Philips
    454987
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447398
    1999
    History
    203290
    1999
    Eroica Distribution
    3024
    1999
    Naxos
    8110601
    1999
    Seraphim UK
    7243573429
    1999
    Decca
    460632
    1999
    Decca / Universal
    1999
    Decca
    466375
    1999
    BIS
    900
    1999
    Berlin Classics
    0032052
    1999
    Chandos
    7114
    1999
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4190612
    1999
    Haenssler
    98351
    1999
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    456952
    1999
    Decca
    4664622
    1999
    RCA Red Seal
    63000
    1999
    Philips
    456853
    1998
    Concert Classics
    5505
    1998
    Philips
    462 176-2PM2
    1998
    Various Artists
    EMI Music Distribution
    721112
    1998
    SPJ Music
    90005
    1998
    Dutton Laboratories
    CDCLP4004
    1998
    Universal Distribution
    80398
    1998
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453 136-2GTA2
    1998
    Nimbus
    1761
    1998
    Various Artists
    Denon Records
    17013
    1998
    Tuxedo Music
    1045
    1998
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    550810
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    902668442
    1997
    Point Classics
    267121
    1997
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    310353-2
    1997
    Original Soundtrack
    Sony Music Distribution
    63032
    1997
    London
    448604
    1997
    Biddulph Recordings
    LHW036
    1997
    Arte Nova
    43315
    1997
    Nimbus
    5511
    1997
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    063018411
    1997
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    40068
    1997
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    455234
    1997
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    1997
    Dutton Laboratories
    2504
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    Berlin Classics
    0093072
    1997
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    98932
    1997
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    EH
    EH70166-2
    1996
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    504011
    1996
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    62294
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    24415
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    68619
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    29460
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    2518
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    447420
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    01132
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    8 553269
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    1064
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    4165
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    3812
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    6451
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    920221
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    14272
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    444839
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    61991
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    7008
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    5505
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    61961
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    1206
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    61658
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    902
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    440653
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    61851
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    53512
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    10001
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    57982
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    10011
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    104
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    67783
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    62034
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    CO-75368
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    47183
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    438326
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    61679
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    47630
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    438383
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    5008
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    550117
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    61265
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    46271
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    80259
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    432759
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    60540
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    8882/3
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    54232
    1990
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    60567
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    5997
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    2
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    415119
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    425576
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    421590
    1987
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    62019
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    417702
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    414475
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    36722
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    14934
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    204562
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    116
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    82402
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    61677
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    BLD 0054
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    11B
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    3009
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    8091
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    45238
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    74732
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    000303102
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    11
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    4074
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    878
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    39437
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    8020
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    60010
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    426749
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    1066
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    45803
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    38672
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    140272
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    92293/5
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    92614/4
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    2086
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    020
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    412881
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    64558
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    608
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    5250
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    2030
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    107
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    414348
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    250
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    29467