|I think of Rachmaninoff as being the Howard Roark of music. |
He had the integrity and independence to compose music that was authentic, original, and soaring, yet based in a romantic pallet. He did this in an era where the trend was all about attention-getting novelty. Any composer who wanted a high degree of prestige needed to embrace atonality, serial music, avante-garde experimentation and the like.
The elite musical establishment of the time, led by Ellsworth Toohey-ish figures, pointed to a musical future that was free from the "constraints" of tonality. The suggestion was that any composer who didn't follow this trend was either mired in traditions of the past, or was merely trying to please a public who had no conception of the supposedly superior experimental music of the concert hall.
Rachmaninoff was keenly aware that his music was rejected by these academic power-brokers. All he would have had to do to win their praise and the Fine Art Seal of Approval would have been to toss off some unintelligible symphony composed of bleeps, blurps, and noise. He would have been declared a musical pioneer of the future right then and there and gained all the respect that the Peter Keatings of music had already won. But thankfully he never did.
Rachmaninoff stayed true to his sense of life, to the highest standards of musical composition as he understood them, and to the idea that music can convey the deepest of emotions.