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Just in: End of the Rachmaninov line

Alexander Rachmaninov died early this morning of a brain haemorrhage. He was 80 years old. He had had a stroke on Monday at his home in Switzerland and was in a coma in a specialist hospital in Lausanne for two days.

He will be buried near his mother, Rachmaninov’s daughter, in Medun, south of Paris. His paternal surname was Conus, but he preferred his famous grandfather’s

Alexander, who lived in his grandfather’s villa on Lake Lucerne, was estranged from his children. He is survived by his recenly married wife, Natalie, who is likely to inherit the estate.

Serge Rachmaninov died in March 1943. Most of his copyrights will expire at the end of next year. Alexander was involved in creating a fifth piano concerto out of the original second symphony, which will earn revenues for much longer.

The pianist Denis Matsuev, who worked closely with Alexander and premiered the ‘fifth’ concerto, said of him today: ‘He was absolutely Russian in spirit, a man who could not survive without Russian nature, Russian language, Russian culture, music, grandfather…’

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  1. Peter Klatzow says:

    I hope his grandfather forgives him for the travesty he created out of the marvellous 2nd symphony.

    • Willem Scholtz says:

      Thank you for comment. I fully agree!

      Willem Scholtz
      member of the Rachmaninoff Society

  2. “Medun” should rather be Meudon (or Melun?), I suppose?

  3. Maestro Flash Montoya says:

    Dear Norman,
    if I recall correctly, Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy premiered the Warenberg-Rachmaninoff Concerto, not Matsuev. It was Pieter van Winkel who approached Alexander Warenberg and asked him to make the arrangement. As curator of the estate, Alexander Rachmaninov just had to give the ok. I think Warenberg has created a real gem for Rachmaninoff fans and I think Peter Klatzow is way off the mark. It would be better to focus our anger on absurd copyright laws that only funnel money to publishers and grandchildren.

    • I fully agree!

      It is an arrangement true to the style of Rachmaninoff himself. If it would be released as “created by S.Rachmaninoff”, one wouldn’t nag about the idea of a travesty…

  4. This will make Sotheby’s happy. He has kept a number of Rachmaninov items from being sold there over the years.

  5. Laurence Glavin says:

    Beethoven personally made an arrangement of his Violin Concerto for Piano and added an unusual cadenza for that instrument with tympani accompaniment. He also arranged his Second Symphont for piano-cello and violin trio. So i guess if one of the three greatest musicians in world history (the others of course are J.S. Bach and Mozart) saw fit to make arrangements of some of his seminal works, that should be ok. But the COMPOSER HIMSELF should oversee and approve of such a work. (SIDEBAR: if you ever watch C-Span, the US cable channel that covers the doings, or should I say machinations of the US House and Senate, while votes are being counted and/or bought, they audio is often a piece of classical music. One day, it was an arrangement for flute and orchestra of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto. I was very familiar with the latter, so this arrangement, whether it was approved by the composer or not, sounded very strange indeed.)

    • William Safford says:

      Bach made some lovely arrangements of Vivaldi’s music….

    • - “But the COMPOSER HIMSELF should oversee and approve of such a work.” -
      Golly, do you really think so ?- With such restrictions we would have no Vivaldi arr. Bach solo concertos for organ, no Bach arr. Mozart fugues for string trio (with Mozart’s new preludes attached) and no Grosse Fuge of Beethoven arranged by Furtwängler or Weingartner.

      It would seem whatever is good and musical is what works and should meet our approval. Thank God we had Glazounoff and all those other great impermissible arrangers !

  6. I hope that there might be some plans to make a Rachmaninoff museum at his villa in Switzerland now. It was never open to the public, but one can still see its lakeside front from a boat on Lake Lucerne. Back around 10 years ago (??? maybe longer than that), I remember hiking there with a friend from the Hertenstein boat station on a sunny day in late August and taking our pictures in front of the lovely wrought-iron gate with the initials “SONAR”. Since the blackberries were in season, I was delighted to find a bunch of nice ones hanging over the fence around the property to the left of the gate and helped myself to a few. Now I can claim to have eaten some of Rachmaninoff’s blackberries!

    Of course, we didn’t set foot on the property, but one could still look down the extensive driveway into the lovely garden. About five years ago, I made the pilgrimage once more, but was shocked to find that the fence had been replaced with some monolithic structure of a height of some 5 or 6 meters and the SONAR gate gone, the whole property completely closed up like Ft. Knox. Perhaps Mr. Alexander Conus (this was actually the name which was in the telephone book at the time) was becoming a bit paranoid? Too bad for those who would enjoy seeing (and hearing!) Rachmaninoff’s own Steinway piano and want to pay homage to the musical genius that Rachmaninoff was.

  7. Oops … That should be SENAR, of course! (SErgei + NAtalia Rachm.)

    Musician’s Freudian slip, I suppose! :)

  8. If Alexander had children, although estranged, why is it the absolute end of the Rachmaninoff line? I know the last name is Conus (and I studied with Madame Olga Conus, a relative), but I’m a little confused – there are children who had a Rachmaninoff as their grandmother who are still alive, so doesn’t that count for something?
    Thanks, Susan

  9. Natalie Wanamaker Javier says:

    Thank You. Yes, Rachmaninoff continues in the children of his grand-daughter Princess Sophia Wolkonsky, daughter of Irina Rachmaninoff. Sophia married Allison Temple Wanamaker. They had three children-Peter, Natalie, and Allison. Sergei Rachmaninoff is their great-grandfather. They cherish his music and legacy.It is not the end of the Rachmaninoff line. WE ARE VERY MUCH ALIVE. Thank You, Natalie Wanamaker

  10. Hello, Natalie, thank you for the information – since you are related, can you verify for me if Alexander had any children – this article said there were some, but they were estranged. If they are alive, do you know of them? Also a newspaper from England, the Telegraph UK, says Alexander never married; this article says that he recently married a Natalie. Do you know anything about that? Then, I have to agree with you about the whole line of children you mention. The Rachmaninoff line is not dead. Since I studied piano with Madame Olga Conus, my interest is more than just a passing fancy or nosiness. I heard stories about Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Chaliapin, Medtner, etc, at every piano lesson from Madame. Thank you, Susan Graas McKeever

  11. Maria L. Wanamaker says:

    There are also great-great grandchildren Alexander Temple Wanamaker, (1985-2012) Susan Sophia Wanamaker,Jordan and Sergei Javier and Sophia McDonald.

  12. Hello Susan,

    Alexander Conus had two legitimate children which I have known, Serge and Alexandra. I am not sure why they are not mentioned as heirs. I do know for a fact that Alexander’s love relationships (or marriage) often ended abruptly. He has been my step father for several years. Then he and my mother separated.

    I think it would only be fair for Serge and Alexandra to inherit part of Alexander’s inheritance.


  13. Marina, thank you for the information. I hope everything works out for everyone involved.
    Susan Graas McKeever

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