News - 02 Aug 2022

Sara Lee, piano soloist for 'Rhapsody'

Rachmaninoff is a special composer for me. Not only is he one of my favourite composers, but he was born in Moscow, Russia, a city where I studied for a long time.

In Moscow, I learned a lot about Rachmaninov as I came across many of his works, while at the same time I was absorbing much of the Russian way of life and culture. And so it is with this background that I approach Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Rhapsody is one of the most widely-known and best-loved piano concertos. The piece, composed in 1934, is a set of 24 variations based on the theme of Niccolò Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 for solo violin. Even though Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody was composed after Liszt and Brahms’s compositions based on the same theme, Rachmaninov’s work is perhaps the best-known of them all.

Rachmaninov does not stint when it comes to the demands he makes of the piano soloist. The dazzling virtuosity of the pianist’s part confirms that he was indeed an outstanding pianist.

My performance of this work with the DSO was in fact scheduled for 2021, but, thanks to Covid, it could not go ahead then. I am therefore more than excited to finally be performing the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the orchestra and conductor Kenneth Young.

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