A Rachmaninoff Finale

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony in E Minor is not played too often, according to Ted Stern, conductor of the Glendale College Community Orchestra, which will play the piece for its final concert of the season on Sunday.

“The reason is like a lot of turn-of-the-century pieces: It’s long--52 minutes long--which means either it’s the only thing on the program, or we ask people to bring a picnic lunch,” Stern said.

The orchestra chose the former option.

Stern also said that Rachmaninoff’s music, in general, hasn’t been played too often of late anywhere because of world politics.


It seems that the composer, who was born in Russia in 1873, supported the czar during the Russian Revolution in 1917. Rachmaninoff fled to the United States and in 1931 signed a letter attacking the Soviet regime. So the Communists banned his music.

“To play Rachmaninoff in the Western world was to light a torch for everything that Rachmaninoff stood for,” Stern said. “But now that the Communists are out, everybody’s interested in it.”

Stern said that the Second Symphony has many familiar melodies.

“Even though it wasn’t performed a lot, the melodies just sort of lingered in the public imagination,” he said. “Rachmaninoff was never one of those radical composers in the 20th Century, and that explains in part why he was considered very old-fashioned in the ‘30s and that’s another reason why he’s popular today. He’s lush and rich and there isn’t a dissonant bone in his body.”

Although the composer wrote three symphonies, he is better known for his four piano concertos--not surprising, since he was a concert pianist.

Stern will raise his baton at 4 p.m. in the college auditorium, 1500 N. Verdugo Road. Admission: $5, $3 for students and senior citizens.