The numbering of the compositions of Sergei Rachmaninoff

The numbering of the compositions of Sergei Rachmaninoff is given for the first time in accordance with the Subject-Thematic Index of the Works (SR-Index) compiled by admired Rachmaninoff scholar and expert Dr Valentin Antipov in the context of scholarly preparation the Critical Edition of the Complete Works.1

The need for a numbered index of the composer’s works arranged by chronology and semantic content has long been perceived in Rachmaninoff studies. This need has become especially acute as a result of the large-scale fundamental archival research into the sources and texts of the composer’s musical legacy carried out in conjunction with preparations the Critical Edition of the Complete Works, with a significant volume of previously uninvestigated materials (including unknown compositions) coming to light. It has also been established that the overwhelming majority of the composer’s autograph MSS contain several layers of musical notation, representing different Versions and Variants; previously unknown motivations in his artistic intention, programmes and concealed literary subjects have come to light — elements on which the bringing into being of the majority of Rachmaninoff’s compositions was based. It has also emerged that the majority of Rachmaninoff’s piano compositions have a dual performing nature and were intended, among other things, for chamber-instrumental ensembles and other variously constituted performing groups. It has been established that it was characteristic of the composer’s creative process for there to be a progressive, stage-by-stage enlargement of the initial creative conceptions, manifested in the fact that specific individual compositions or cycles found further development and acquired a grander scale. This was what happened in the case of the cycle of 10 Préludes op. 23 (1903), which obtained its continuation in the subsequent op. 32 (1910) and thus the cycle of 24 Préludes for piano came into being. The large-scale Faust-Dilogy, comprising the two Sonatas for piano op. 28 (1907) and op. 36 (1913), and the unified cycle of Etudes-Tableaux, made up of two books, op. 33 (1911) and op. 39 (1916), were created by enlarging the original creative idea.

All the discoveries made through archival, text-critical and semantic scholarship listed above, taken together, substantially alter our general impression of the scale of Rachmaninoff’s legacy which is far larger and more magnificent than we had been accustomed to think until recent times, and they demanded a fundamentally new radical scholarly treatment, systematisation, indexing and cataloguing of the compositions. In fact, the SR-Index is a complete, authentic, painstakingly argued and annotated reconstruction of the composer’s entire artistic legacy.

The SR-Index takes into account and contains the complete range of information about his artistic legacy. For the first time in Rachmaninoff studies the composer’s works have been indexed in a way which reflects the aspects of chronology and semantic content as they concern both the creative process by which the works were composed and Rachmaninoff’s artistic path.

Until now, we have been familiar with the numbering the composer himself brought into being over the duration of his creative path. But for all its superficial neatness and logic, this authorial numbering reflects fully neither the whole extent of his artistic legacy nor the strictly chronological sequence of the works’ composition. According to the authorial numbering, Rachmaninoff bequeathed an artistic legacy amounting in total to 45 published opus numbers, starting with op. 1, the First Piano Concerto in F-sharp minor (1890-1892, 1st version; 1917, 2nd version) and ending with op. 45 (the ballet The Scythians, 1915; the Symphonic Dances, 1940). The numbering of the works with opus number was inserted by the composer himself in his autograph MSS when sending them for publication in print and was reproduced in the first and subsequent publications of his works as well as in catalogues issued by music publishers. The final document reflecting the composer’s artistic legacy dates from the period before 1917 and is a list of compositions arranged in the order of the composer’s opus numbers (nos. 1-39) compiled by Boris Asaf’yev and given by him to Rachmaninoff for the dates to be verified.2

If we take the composition history of the Capriccio bohémien, it follows from the composer’s letters that it was practically completed in 1892 and ought to have been numbered op. 7. However, the Capriccio bohémien was ultimately completed only in 1894, when its author assigned it the corresponding opus no. 12.3 The same thing applies to the history of the conception and realisation in a music text of works such as the Fourth Piano Concerto (1914-1926), the Third Symphony: “The Great War” (1914-1936), and the ballet The Scythians /the Symphonic Dances (1915-1940). These works were substantially completed between 1914 and 1916, and in other circumstances could have been given the corresponding authorial numbering by opus. But their full elaboration was carried out only many years later and given the authorial numbering op. 40, 44 and 45 respectively.

As regards the numbering of Rachmaninoff’s works, there has long been a rather serious problem concerning the total extent of the composer’s artistic legacy. It is well known that a whole series of works, dating primarily from the earliest period of composition when Rachmaninoff was a student at the Moscow Conservatoire, were not published by the composer and therefore were not numbered. Among these compositions are such masterpieces as the Russian Rhapsody (1891), the symphonic picture Prince Rostislav (1891) and the Trio élégiaque in G minor (1892).

The problem of the composer’s attitude to his early artistic experiments is not so straightforward, despite the fact that he left them without authorial numbering. Thus, in the letter to Boris Asaf’yev already mentioned, Rachmaninoff enumerated a series of compositions of his early period as well as later works not marked by an opus number. By that very fact the composer indicated that he viewed these as compositions deserving attention: the opera Aleko (1892), the sacred concerto V molitvakh neusпpayushchuyu Bogoroditsu (1893), the chorus Panteley-tselitel’ (1900), and Iz Yevangeliya ot Ioanna (1914).4 Works not assigned an opus number amount to a significant quantity, and that circumstance represents a rather serious problem in cataloguing Rachmaninoff’s compositions.

Rachmaninoff’s first attempts at numbering his works go back to his earliest experiments in composition, the Four Pieces for piano (1889) and the Six Songs for voice and piano (1890-1891).5 In the autograph MSS of these compositions Rachmaninoff inserted ‘op. 1’ — first of all in the Four Pieces, and then in the Six Songs. In subsequent works written at the Conservatoire — right up to the First Piano Concerto (1890-1892), however, one finds no numbering by opus. Evidently, as he proceeded through the course in composition, the demands Rachmaninoff made of himself as an artist became ever more stringent until, finally, he created a composition which in his opinion could be presented as a fully rounded musical opus. It is also possible that the numbering by opus in those two early autograph MSS was given no encouragement by his strict teachers, and therefore in subsequent Conservatoire auto-graph MSS (up to the First Concerto) the composer refrained from assigning numbers.

We have taken as the basis for the SR-Index the chronological sequence of the compositions, since on the whole it reflects the composer’s creative path most organically and naturally. The early unnumbered compositions are thus located at the beginning of the SR-Index. In this way, by comparison with the composer’s sequence of opus numbers (from 1 to 45), the numbering of the compositions is correspondingly shifted forward. During his years as a student at the Moscow Conservatoire Rachmaninoff composed 22 works which were left with no opus number assigned. In the SR-Index these compositions are presented in the order 1-22, and accordingly the First Concerto acquires the number 23. Thereafter the works follow altogether in the order they were presented by the composer in his lists of compositions by authorial opus.

In the SR-Index, each of the projects listed arising as a result of the enlargement of the initial authorial artistic plans is numbered as a single integral work. Accordingly, enlarged projects of this kind receive a single index number in the general numbering of Rachmaninoff’s works: SR 58 is the 24 Préludes (op. 3 no. 2; op. 23; op. 32); SR 61 is Faust-Dilogy (op. 28; op. 36); SR 64 is the Etudes-Tableaux (op. 33; op. 39). The single index number referring to enlarged authorial projects reflects in the highest degree the works’ composition history and also the creative path of the great composer in its indissoluble unity and artistic integrity.

This arrangement gives a full, reliable presentation of Rachmaninoff’s compositional process and creative path and reflects his artistic legacy in the most organic and holistic manner. Notwithstanding that, in the Critical Edition of the Complete Works the authorial numbering by opus is preserved in the headings of the compositions, the constituents of which are the actual title of the work, the key in which it was written and the opus number given by the composer.

The indexing of the compositions of Rachmaninoff in the SR-Index has the following structure:

1. A composition
The first two digits in SR-Index, which run from 00 to 77, denote the number of an individual, integral, self-contained composition, when it is not a component part of another larger-scale composition. Both single-movement self-sufficient compositions as well as cycles and collections, including those made up of several opus numbers, are catalogued with a single two-digit number, for example:
SR 25 – the Morceaux de fantaisie op. 3;
SR 5824 Préludes op. 3 no. 2; op. 23; op. 32.

2. An individual movement from a cycle or collection
Individual movements or pieces forming cycles or collections (other than individual movements from sonata-symphonic cycles) are numbered. The numbering of the individual movements or pieces from cycles and collections is given after the number of the work and separated from it by a dot, for example:
SR 58.2Prélude no. 2 F-sharp minor op. 23 no. 1 (24 Préludes);
SR 40.1Moment musical B-flat minor op. 16 no. 1 (Six moments musicaux).

3. Versions of a composition or of an individual movement from it 
The presence of versions or variants relating both to integral, self-contained compositions and to individual pieces forming cycles or collections is reflected in the numbering. When versions or variants exist, the number for them is inserted at the end of the index entry for the work:
1 (first version), 2 (second version), 3 (third version), for example:
SR 61.22 – Second Sonata B-flat minor op. 36, 2nd version;
SR 61.23 – Second Sonata B-flat minor op. 36, 3rd version.

1 Cf. Valentin Antipov. Subject-Thematic Index of the Works of Sergei Rachmaninoff. (Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff: Critical Edition of the Complete Works, Series: The Study Sources Appendix. Vol. IV). Moscow, Russian Music Publishing (RMP 3015, in print). A Complete chronological list of the compositions of Sergei Rachmaninoff according SR-Index for the first time published in the Appendix II to the 2nd edition of volume RCW V/17 (Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff: Critical Edition of the Complete Works, Series V: Works for Piano Solo, Vol. 17: 24 Préludes (SR 58). Edited by Valentin Antipov (RMP 3002). Moscow, Russian Music Publishing, 22023), as preprint from Subject-Thematic Index.

2 Cf. letter of 13 April 1917 of Sergei Rachmaninoff to Boris Asaf’yev where the composer inserted dates in a list of his compositions. S. Rakhmaninov. Literaturnoye naslediye (Literary legacy). In three volumes, ed. Z.A. Apetyan. Vol. 2. Moscow, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1980, pp. 94-101.

3 Cf. letters of 2 August 1892 and 24 July 1894 of Sergei Rachmaninoff to M.A. Slonov where the composition history of the Capriccio bohémien is outlined. Ibid. Vol. 1. Recollections, Articles. Interviews. Letters. Moscow, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1978, pp. 97 and 237.

4 Cf. letter of 13 April 1917 of Sergei Rachmaninoff to Boris Asaf’yev where the composer inserted dates in a list of his compositions. Op. cit. Vol. 2, pp. 94-101.

5 The autograph MSS are preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music (RNMM): ‘Four Pieces’ for piano, SR 04 (1889) – Coll. 18, MSS 75-58; ‘Six Songs’ for voice and piano, SR 15 (1890-1891) – Coll. 18, MS 1135.