Composed in 1909, Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor (Op. 30) by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff holds a reputation as being one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in standard piano repertoire.
The composition was so fierce for the soloist, that many feared performing it. Even the pianist Rachmaninoff dedicated it to never publicly performed it. What all of this technical difficulty within the solo and orchestral part does, however, is open up repeated lush, thick, and intense tonal settings. Seemingly every note has it's own sound complexion, even though the piece is filled to the brim with notation.
This arrangement of the piece captures those complexities in both the solo and orchestral parts, and spreads them throughout the marching band, never losing the beauty and intensity of the original work.
Difficulty - Hard Grade - 5
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Mvt. I - 'Allegro Ma Non Tanto'
With a full band entrance that quickly fades, we are introduced to the hauntingly beautiful main theme unsurprisingly in the keyboards. It is passed around through the winds and developed into a large impact with the main theme throughout the entire ensemble. From there the winds develop a second theme, with challenging off-beat and triplet figures. As this melody is passed throughout the ensemble, the tempo picks up and escalates the intensity of the piece, finishing with a rapid recapitulation of the original main theme.
This piece features some beautiful front ensemble textures throughout, as they are the focus of a majority of the theme throughout. There are several tempo alterations throughout, with rallentandos in the early parts really stretching the expression heard in the tonality of the piece. It has an intense finish at the end, cycling through several keys and building tension before it releases with a strong unison note.
Mvt. II - 'Intermezzo - Adagio'
Beginning with a single note on the chimes against a synthesizer drone, the piece gives way to a very exposed and beautiful clarinet solo that is eventually joined in with 2 more soprano clarinets and bass. The tempo picks up as the rest of the winds join in with fuller harmony, and the front ensemble adds texture. Finally, the field percussion adds in as the melody builds into a big, impactful, suspended dissonance that resolves and leads to a very expressive percussion feature that is both challenging yet beautiful for both front ensemble and field percussion. When the winds join back in, the tempo picks up a bit more for a more flowing backdrop to a gorgeous flute solo. The piece ends with a trumpet solo that brings back the original melody from the beginning, before a beautiful chord sequence brings it to a close.
This piece utilizes many different meters and subdivisions of meter to adapt to the marching band field, while still maintaining the original sounds of the composition. With a majority being in 3/2, it opens up a very large amount of visual flexibility, be it for marching or for choreography. The piece begins in D minor, but gradually evolves into a warm Db major setting for the flute solo.
Mvt. III - 'Finale - Alla Breve'
It takes absolutely no time for the tone to be set with this piece - fast and intense. The ensemble bursts onto the scene with a loud accent, only to fade quickly away and giving way to the percussion, as they introduce the main theme of the piece. Keyboard parts of thick and flying, and the field percussion interludes with challenging solos, building into a big full percussion ensemble feature that leads right into a brass quartet entrance to introduce the winds to the theme. After a short woodwind development, the whole band comes in to really power through this intense piece, building and building the entire way. That building leads to a large recap of the main theme from the first movement in half time, bringing the show full circle. The ending cycles through the rest of the themes of the concerto through a progression of key changes.
This piece is a constant push in tempo and technique. Fast fingers for both field and front ensemble percussion are key in handling the demand. Articulation in the winds is also imperative to play the figures cleanly. This piece utilizes a lot of thick percussion scoring to aid the tonality and articulation of the wind book. This piece, like the rest, utilize both triple and duple subdivisions of beat throughout. It is challenging, no doubt, but musical and intense like few others!