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10 Must-Hear Recordings of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Johannes Plennio/Unsplash

It was the summer of 1934. At his villa in Switzerland near Lake Lucerne, Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 comprised of 24 variations. The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, premiered the work in November, 1934 with Rachmaninoff himself as soloist in Baltimore. It was an immediate success.

The Variation No. 18 is one of the most recognizable and beloved, and has shown up in several films over the years, including Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, played the work this past August at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. You’ll hear a recording of the performance on WRTI, Sunday, October 7 at 1 pm and Monday, October 8 at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2.

Do you have all-time favorite recording of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini? Check these out!

Daniil Trifonov plays Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation No. 18 with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin:

Van Cliburn plays Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation No. 18 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kirill Kondrashin:

Pianist Stephen Hough with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo:

Sergei Rachmaninoff is soloist with The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski:

Daniil Trifonov with Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta:

Arthur Rubenstein with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner:

Valentina Lisitsa with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic conducted by Kristjan Järvi:

Nikolai Lugansky plays Variation No. 18  with Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Tugan Sokhiev:

Jeno Jando plays Variation 18 with Budapest Symphony Orchestra:

Gary Graffman with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein: