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Whenever I am feeling a need to escape the world, and reconnect with whatever it is in me that I happen to call "I", there are really only two people I turn to. One of them is Beethoven. The other, is Rachmaninov. Both of these composers somehow have the capacity to weave complex introspective dialogues in their music that closely mirror my own inner dialogues, while at the same time giving extremely vivid expression to the ebb and flow of emotions that swirl and swell around those inner debates.

Right now, I can think of no better example of this, than Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2. And, no better performance of that work, than The Ashkenazy/Haitink recording (which I will link to this post). This work achieves something rare for me. Thinking without words. At times, the experience is enough to move me to tears. On hot summer nights in Chicago, as a teen, I used to turn the lights off in my bedroom, throw open the windows, and just lie on my bed and let Rachmaninov (playing on my Lloyd's stereo phonograph) carry me into myself on the tips of Ashkenazy's fingers.

This piano concerto was, interestingly enough, the very first thing Rachmaninov wrote, after a 3 year bout with depression, and a failed first symphony (thanks, mostly, to an alcoholic incompetent Glazunov, who botched the opening night). After almost a year of psychotherapy, the spirit finally crept back into Rachmaninov, and this is what he produced. And it is glorious. Having had many of my own occasional visits from what Churchill called "the black dog", I can tell you that it was mostly Sergei (and Ludwig) that kept me anchored firmly on the earth in those times. And now when I listen to him, it's like visiting an old friend.

Give him a listen. I think you'll like it.





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