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Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini

Here’s a hint: Two virtuosos come together in a musical showstopper!

We’ve seen a great number of musical virtuosos come and go through the years. Paganini and Liszt are just two of the vast number of great performers who’ve graced the world’s concert stages over time.

In the 20th century, another piano virtuoso, Sergei Rachmaninoff, composed the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in honor of the undisputed master of the violin. The very-familiar theme is based on one of Paganini’s Caprices, a set of etudes that violinists find fiendishly difficult even to this day.

Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody received its world premiere in Baltimore, Maryland with the composer as the piano soloist and Leopold Stokowski leading the Philadelphia Orchestra. The work was later used as the score to a ballet by the choreographer Michael Fokine in a production for London’s Royal Ballet.

The Rhapsody is a tour-de-force for any pianist and is widely admired as a showstopper played many of the 20th century’s great pianists.

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