Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Geoffrey Burleson

Committee Members

Anne Swartz

Ursula Oppens

Sylvia Kahan

Subject Categories

Music Performance


Rachmaninoff, recordings, piano, performance, analysis


Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano music is a staple of piano literature, but academia has been slower to embrace his works. Because he continued to compose firmly in the Romantic tradition at a time when Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg variously represented the vanguard of composition, Rachmaninoff’s popularity has consequently not been as robust in the musicological community. He left a rich legacy of recorded material which provides a first-hand account of his approach to musical interpretation. Few have analyzed Rachmaninoff’s recordings in great detail, and there are even fewer studies addressing Rachmaninoff’s performances of works by other composers.

The aim of this dissertation is to analyze the discrepancies between the printed score and Rachmaninoff’s recordings of his own works and works by other composers, and to explore the reasons for these differences. By charting these variations from the printed scores in his recordings of Schumann’s Carnaval, Op. 9 and Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35, two recordings that Rachmaninoff identified as some of his finest work, these differences can be shown to reflect his prioritization of the architectural vision over the smaller details written in the score. Rachmaninoff’s revisions to his own scores have direct connections to his interpretive choices and priorities, and his edits aimed to improve the structural projection of the piece as a whole. By examining these differences, the reader can also begin to anticipate what interpretive goals Rachmaninoff might generally have throughout his compositions, thereby deriving a deeper understanding of Rachmaninoff’s compositional and interpretive aesthetics, and, for pianists, better and more authentically informing their own interpretive choices.