Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor. He was born into an aristocratic Russian family, started to play the piano at age 5, and by 9 years of age he was already a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His teachers were so taken by his brilliant playing that they overlooked his poor scholarly performance. He continued his studies at the Moscow Conservatory under the famous and strict Nikolai Zverev. It was Zverev who introduced him to the most famous Russian composers of the age: Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein and Glazunov. But in 1887, when Rachmaninoff showed two of his piano transcriptions and his nocturnes to Zverev, it turned out the he had other ideas about his student’s future. He wanted a piano virtuoso, not a composer. Tchaikovsky, however, liked the transcription of the Manfred Symphony and encouraged him to keep on composing. Having cut ties with Zverev, Rachmaninoff graduated early from the Academy. In 1892, at the age of 19, he wrote both his first opera, Aleiko, based on the work of Pushkin, and his Prelude in C sharp minor, which was a resounding success and which he had then to perform at every concert. Following the fiasco of his First Symphony’s 1897 premiere he didn’t compose anything for the next three years. Between 1897 and 1899 he conducted at a private opera house, where he met Chaliapin and they struck up a lifelong friendship. The turn of the century saw Rachmaninoff’s international career take off; besides conducting at the Bolshoi Theatre, he toured internationally, gave concerts and composed. After the October Revolution he took his family into exile in Sweden, never to return. He lived in Stockholm and Copenhagen, then moved to New York. He died in California in 1943. In addition to his orchestral works and concertos, liturgical and vocal music, his rich oeuvre also contains operas, chamber and solo-piano works. His audio legacy is also substantial; numerous recordings attest to his exceptional abilities as a performer.