Wednesday, February 13, 2013

That time when Rachmaninoff gave Sikorsky money

The Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 (from Wikipedia)
Sergei Rachmaninoff: very late-Romantic Russian composer of the first half of the twentieth century and virtuoso pianist with hands the size of dinner plates. Igor Sikorsky: Russian expatriate engineer known for perfecting the design of the modern helicopter. As everyone who cares about classical music and helicopters knows.

But what is somewhat less known is that Rachmaninoff was a huge fan of Sikorsky's. So much so that, in 1923, when Sikorsky—who had recently emigrated from Russia, fleeing the Revolution—was having a hard time getting his new Long Island workshop off the ground both financially and literally, the fabulously wealthy and famous Rachmaninoff drove up in a limousine and wrote Sikorsky a check for $5,000. (In 1920, the average car cost $575.) The two became good friends, and Sikorsky later named Rachmaninoff the first vice-president of Sikorsky Aircraft. A fuller account is on the Sikorsky Archives' website.

And now, one of the better Rachmaninoff moments, the 3rd movement of the cello sonata, as played by Mstislav Rostropovich and Aleksandr Dedyukhin in 1956:

Also worthwhile: that time that Rachmaninoff was thinking about writing an opera based on Flaubert's weirdest novel

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