As some may already know, Rachmaninov wrote a small but significant amount of music for cello. All of his works for the instrument feature piano accompaniment, and the most important of the group, of course, is the Op. 19 G minor Sonata, from 1901. The two pieces comprising Op. 2 are among his earliest efforts and while some influences can be heard in them, they are remarkably well-crafted considering the composer's youth; he was not yet 20 when he wrote them.
These two works are entitled "Prelude," marked Comodo, and "Danse Orientale," marked Andante cantabile. The first opens with a rather straightforward melody on cello in a rich post-Romantic vein, already recognizable as Rachmaninov in its melancholy. A second theme is introduced that is brighter in mood. The piano accompaniment is rather simple for Rachmaninov in both themes, though a bit more colorful in the alternate melody. The main theme returns to close the piece. The "Danse Orientale" opens with a decidedly exotic theme, quite Middle Eastern in flavor. Here "orientale" perhaps served as a catchall for "exotic," as well. Indeed, some of the cello and piano writing sounds close to Gypsy music at times. In any event, a fast middle section goes back to the world of early Rachmaninov, and the contrast is most effective. The main theme returns in the cello's upper ranges, supported by playful, colorful accompaniment on the piano. Another restatement of the main theme is given to conclude the work. Once again, the demands on the pianist are relatively light throughout. In the end, both pieces must be judged fine representations of early Rachmaninov. A typical performance of the "Prelude" lasts about four minutes. The "Danse Orientale" would have a duration of around six to seven minutes.