Valeria Z. Nollan’s biography of perhaps the finest pianist of the twentieth century plunges readers into Rachmaninoff’s complex inner world. Sergei Rachmaninoff: Cross Rhythms of the Soul is the first biography of Rachmaninoff in English that presents him in the fullness of his Russian identity. As someone whose own life in Russian emigration ran in parallel ways to Rachmaninoff’s own—and whose meetings with the composer’s grandson in Switzerland informed her work—Nollan brings important cultural insights into her observations of the activities of this generation of creative artists. She also traces the intricacies of Rachmaninoff’s relations with the women closest to him—whose imprints are palpable in his compositions—and introduces a mystery woman whose existence challenges our established narrative of his life.
Valeria Z. Nollan is professor emerita of Russian studies at Rhodes College.
Chapter 1. Rachmaninoff’s Origins
Chapter 2. Early Education
Chapter 3. Birth of a Composer-Pianist
Chapter 4. Birth of a Conductor
Chapter 5. The Muses
Chapter 6. Mystery of an Immortal Beloved
Chapter 7. Marriage to Natalia Satina
Chapter 8. Rachmaninoff’s Aesthetics
Chapter 9. Rachmaninoff’s Religiosity
Chapter 10. Transitions
Chapter 11. The Legendary Virtuoso Pianist
Chapter 12. Rachmaninoff as Humanitarian
Chapter 13. Paradise Regained: The Villa Senar
Chapter 14. The Last Bow: Rachmaninoff and America
Afterword: Rachmaninoff’s Legacy in the Twenty-First Century
Appendix I: Twists and Turns of a Mystery
Appendix II: List of Works
"Meticulously researched, eminently readable, and full of intriguing new details, Valeria Nollan’s thoughtful biography of Rachmaninoff takes us behind the public persona and timeless music with unique understanding and valuable insight. This book is a must read for any serious music lover."
“Gracefully written and fully accessible to non-specialists, Valeria Z. Nollan’s monograph is a meticulously researched reconstruction of the web of personal and professional relationships within which Rachmaninoff lived and worked, from childhood to his final years. While Nollan’s religious interests do not dominate her book, her recurrent attention to Rachmaninoff’s Russian Orthodox identity adds a welcome dimension to her portrait of the composer who authored what may be the world’s best-known piece of modern Orthodox church music, the 1915 All-Night Vigil (Op. 37).”
"Among the many biographies of Rachmaninoff, this study is distinguished by its insights into how the composer’s genius was formed by Russian life and culture, especially Russian Orthodoxy. Nollan’s knowledge of Rachmaninoff’s Russian worlds presents a more authentic understanding of him than we have had before. The book combines historical and cultural analysis with musicology and new details about the women in Rachmaninoff’s life. It is extensively researched and reads easily, despite its layers of learning. Altogether a major work."