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Skvortsova I., Smolkin К.

New stylistic principles in the romances op. 38 by S. Rachmaninoff

The article offers a new approach to evaluation of the changes in the musical language of S. Rachmaninoff, which took place in one of his key works of the pre-revolutionary years – “Six poems for voice and piano” op. 38 (1916), based on the poetry of the Silver Age poets. Composer’s search for new expressive means was inspired, partly, by the specific language of the symbolist poetry. However, the changes in the composer’s style had been prepared by earlier works – Preludes op. 32 (1910), Études-Tableaux op. 33 (1911) and others.

The vocal genre in the op. 38 has been redefined mainly due to the new interpretation of the piano part, which sometimes takes on the predominant artistic function in the chamber ensemble. The harmony of this opus, characterised by the increased role of the linear factor and the growing role of the phonism of complicated dissonant chords, is marked by the influence of the modernist aesthetics. Melodics in the romances op. 38 is also defined by features that are untypical to Rachmaninoff’s earlier works: the vocal part is declamatory and dissonant, it is of more instrumental then vocal quality; it is characterized by the concentration of chromaticisms, the abundance of leaps at wide, often augmented and diminished intervals, etc.

The evolutionary changes in the musical language of the composer have been the result of not only deeply internal, but also external causes. Continuing traditions of the past, Rachmaninoff had also been influenced by the artistic trends of his time, including the Art Nouveau style, which had eventually been developing in the works of the Russian composers of the 20th century. This allows us to expand and rethink the prevailing ideas about the style of S. Rachmaninoff.

Key words

S. Rachmaninoff, romances op. 38, evolution of style, new stylistic features, Art Nouveau.

For citation

Skvortsova I., Smolkin К. New stylistic principles in the romances op. 38 by S. Rachmaninoff // South-Russian Мusical Anthology. 2020. No. 3. Pp. 50–56.