My mother was more for Chopin and Liszt and we had a lot of that, especially as sheets and books, but also on 33-1/3 LPs, eventually in stereo. So, growing up, we had at least one Rachmaninoff, the Preludes and Variation on a Theme by Paganini, perhaps. And also the Second Piano Concerto. But I never knew that until I read Atlas Shrugged in high school and my 11th grade American history teacher told me that that particular work was one of Ayn Rand’s favorites. I listened to it often while reading Atlas Shrugged through twice. To me, it is the soundtrack for the book and the soundtrack that the movie should have had.
Rand mentions it and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in The Fountainhead, at the beginning of Part IV. We see an anonymous young man in the woods. Recently graduated from college and seeking a path for his future, he responds to the beauty of the world around him and yearns for something within himself to answer the promise in the music.
Rachmaninoff was an icon in the society in which Rand matured. In Dr. Zhivago, Yuri, Lara, Komarovsky, and Pasha are all at the very fine party in a sparkling home, while in the background, Rachmaninoff plays for the guests.
It is not that I don’t care for music (see Hallelujah here), but that I have a slight hearing deficiency. The piano worked well enough for me because you hit the key and you get the note. As open instruments, the coronet and French horn were impossible for me. In the third grade, we took a “music readiness” test in which we had to identify higher and lower notes; and once they got close, I could not tell them apart. But music is a language; and I am good at languages, dialects, and accents. I have two cassette tapes, Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff and Gershwin Plays Gershwin. You can hear covers all over YouTube and the performers are accomplished professionals. But these are not just different performers with their own subtle interpretations. They are the right way to play the music because there is no substitute for creation.
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