Sergey Rachmaninov

The Rock, symphonic poem for orchestra (or piano, 4 hands), Op. 7

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Rachmaninov graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 with the highest of honors, owing to the initial success of his opera Aleko, which served as his primary graduation exercise in composition. The Rock (or as it is also known, The Crag) was the first orchestral composition he completed following his student years.

    Ostensibly, the inspiration of this composition was Chekhov's Along the way. But the composer indicated in the 1893 score that Lermontov's poem The Rock served that purpose. Because Rachmaninov acknowledged Chekhov as the inspiration in an 1898 inscription on a printed score, however, his work is generally believed to be the program source for The Rock.

    The Chekhov work tells of two travelers, one a middle-aged man ("the giant rock") and the other an attractive young woman ("the golden cloud"), meeting on Christmas Eve in a roadside inn when they seek shelter from a blizzard. They develop feelings for each other, but the woman departs in a sleigh the next morning, with the man watching her in the distance as the snow covers him, making him appear like a "lonely white rock."

    The work begins darkly and ponderously in the low strings, the young composer already displaying a fine sense for atmosphere. Quickly the mood brightens, the orchestration showing much color in the reeds and shimmering strings. A short, rather nondescript theme which vaguely evokes Borodin, is heard in the woodwinds, and then the tempo increases. After the material is repeated, the strings play the theme in an animated fashion, imparting more color and personality to it. The mood then turns hushed and mysterious. Eventually, the music intensifies and takes on a threatening character. This grim atmosphere soon leads to a powerful yearning passage on strings that ends with a gripping, dark climax of Tchaikovskian character. Thereafter the music remains in a gloomy, regretful haze.

    The Rock was premiered March 20, 1894, in Moscow. While this piece is interesting and has many effective moments, it is not a major achievement and shows the composer's style still evolving. A typical performance of this work lasts about 15 minutes.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Eloquence
    2018 Menuetto Classics null
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 CuGate Classics CGC 010
    2015 Erato 552769
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 440
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4793631
    2014 Decca 4786765
    2013 Entertainment Group 14163
    2013 Melodiya MYD 1002090
    2012 Naxos 8501059
    2012 Concerto CD 2073
    2012 BIS 1751
    2012 The Entertainment Group 107464
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779505
    2010 Newton Classics 8802021
    2010 Exton 00018
    2010 Avie 2188
    2010 Decca
    2010 Chandos 10589
    2010 Regis Records 1353
    2010 Ars Musici 232192
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 445590
    2008 Svetlanov 4981
    2007 Brilliant Classics 8532
    2007 Melodiya 1000142
    2007 Decca 4758548
    2006 Exton 00156
    2006 Moscow Studio Archives 18731
    2006 Fazer / Finlandia
    2003 Rca Red Seal 74321 88679-2
    2003 Chandos CHAN10104
    2001 Naxos 8550805
    2000 Laserlight 36008
    2000 Finlandia 81967
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459071
    1998 Finlandia 19091
    1998 Russian Revelation 10004
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459059
    1996 BIS 746
    1996 Melodiya 34167
    1995 London 4406042
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 439888
    1994 Naxos 550272
    1994 Philips 438724
    1992 Vox 3002
    Laserlight 14958
    RCA Victor 7902
    Deutsche Grammophon 419314
    Warner Music
    Moscow Studio Archives 20002
    Ars Musici 1121
    Sony Music Distribution 57650
    RCA 60791
    Boheme Music GOL05
    RCA 6801
    Russian Music Society 10007