Étude Tableau Opus 33 No. 2 in C Major
Uploaded on Nov 22, 2013
The Études-tableaux (“study pictures”) are two sets of piano études composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff, arranged under opus numbers 33 and 39.
These sets were supposed to be “picture pieces”, essentially “musical evocations of external visual stimulae”. Rachmaninoff did not disclose what inspired each piece, stating, “I don't believe in the artist that discloses too much of his images. Let them paint for themselves what it most suggests.” However, he willingly shared sources for a few of these études with Italian composer Ottorino Respighi when Respighi orchestrated them in 1930.
Rachmaninoff composed the Opus 33 Études-tableaux at the Ivanovka estate between August and September 1911, the year after completing his second set of preludes, Opus 32. While the Opus 33 Études-tableaux share some stylistic points with the preludes, they are actually very unlike them. Rachmaninoff concentrates in the préludes on establishing well-defined moods and developing musical themes. There is also an academic facet to the préludes, as he wrote 24 of them, one in each of the 24 major and minor keys. Rachmaninoff biographer Max Harrison calls the études-tableaux “studies in [musical] composition”; while they explore a variety of themes, they “investigate the transformation of rather specific climates of feeling via piano textures and sonorities. They are thus less predictable than the preludes and compositionally mark an advance” in technique. Like the piano études of Claude Debussy, Alexander Scriabin, Olivier Messiaen and György Ligeti, the Études-tableaux “summarize their composers' discoveries about the piano and how music for it should be written.” Rachmaninoff initially wrote nine pieces for Opus 33 but published only six in 1914. One étude was subsequently revised and used in the Opus 39 set; the other two appeared posthumously and are now usually played with the other six. Performing these eight études together could be considered to run against the composer's intent, as the six originally published are unified through “melodic-cellular connections” in much the same way as in Robert Schumann's Études Symphoniques.
The Opus 33 Études-Tableaux were originally meant to comprise nine études when Rachmaninoff wrote them at Ivanovka. The composer decided to publish only six of them in 1911. Numbers three and five were published posthumously and are often inserted among the six études; number four was transferred to Opus 39, where it appears as number six of that set. (As a consequence, many recordings omit it from Opus 33).
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