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K. Zhabinsky

“Capriccio on the Gipsy themes” by S. Rachmaninoff: towards the problem of concealed program tendency

The article is devoted to one of the comparatively not popular S. Rachmaninoff’s works of 1890s interpreting “the Gipsy theme”. The researcher accents the individual composer’s approach to realization of the widespread “brilliant” orchestral capriccio (on adopted or stylized “national” themes) model. The dramatic expression inherent in Rachmaninoff’s “Capriccio…” allows examine this work proceeding from the program (similarly to other Rachmaninoff’s symphonic works of this period). The poetic texts of the famous gipsy songs “Malyarka” and “Gipsy Hungarian dance” serve the sources of the program as applied to “Capriccio…”, their tunes are elaborated in the piece. The traditional motifs of the love, destroyed by the ruthless fate dominate in the both texts seem to be relevant to the Romantic era. Besides, the mentioned motifs, interpreted by the twenty-year old composer acquire the autobiographical orientation. The evidence of it is the auto-quotation from the opera “Aleko” by Rachmaninoff (“the theme of Gipsy freedom”); presented in “Capriccio…” it performs the function of conclusion of the extensive symphonic development. The author’s dedication of this work addresses one of the young Rachmaninoff’s friends Peter Lodyzhensky (an amateur composer and connoisseur of Gipsy music). It allows drawing parallels between the artistic idea of the piece and the composer’s secret affection for the gypsy Anna Lodyzhenskaya, Peter’s wife. The difficult circumstances that overshadowed family life of the married couple were projected by Rachmaninoff on his personal “lyric history”. The similar autobiographical motifs of “Gipsy Hungarian dance” composed by the poet Apollo Grigoriev and guitarist Ivan Vasiliev in the middle of the 19th century were conducive to it. The self-evident necessity of overcoming the power of fate encouraged the formation of the special “dramaturgical scenario” in the “Capriccio…”. This “scenario” implied the probability of successful outcome for every imaginary character, inspired by the special healing properties of music. Effectiveness of the named approach has found confirmation in Rachmaninoff’s and the family of Lodyzhensky later life circumstances.

Key words

early symphonic works by S. Rachmaninoff, program tendency, “Capriccio on the Gipsy themes”, autobiographical character, “Gipsy Hungarian dance” by Ap. Grigoriev.

For citation

Zhabinsky K. “Capriccio on the Gipsy themes” by S. Rachmaninoff: towards the problem of concealed program tendency // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2022. No. 3. Pp. 5-12.