First expert appraisal appears on Rachmaninoff’s Cape: a nostalgia memoir

by , under Rachmaninoff's Cape

Rachmaninoff’s Cape has had its first expert comment, which I print here:

‘If biography means the writing of a life, then the facts pertaining to the life of Sergei Rachmaninoff are clear and well-established. Yet how is a biographer to sound the mysterious inner life of Rachmaninoff as a creative artist? And how can facts alone account for the impact of his music on listeners to this day? As sensitive as it is erudite, as intuitive as it is reasoned, Rachmaninoff’s Cape attends to the melancholy and nostalgia that are so central to the composer’s musical language. And in its intertwined narratives of Rousseau’s own life, and the touching story of Evelyn Amster’s fatalistic fascination with the life and works of the Russian émigré composer, it offers its readers a tale of doublings, revenants, symmetries and serendipities that lingers like one of Rachmaninoff’s own haunting melodies.’

Philip Ross Bullock
Professor of Russian Literature and Music
University of Oxford

The composer’s musical language was high on my list of priorities, and I especially wanted to historicise Rachmaninoff’s musical grammar. Professor Bullock makes the further essential point that melancholy and nostalgia are ‘central to the composer’s musical language.’ Yet neither word figures prominently in academic discussion of Rachmaninoff’s works. And remarkably little has been written in any depth about either one in the biographical or historical domains.

Leave a Reply