Organ Concerto project?

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concertoboy
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Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2006 12:54 am

Organ Concerto project?

Postby concertoboy » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:00 am

Someone wrote on Youtube that Rachmaninoff was working on an organ concerto for an organist named Charles Marie Courboin. I have never heard of any organ concerto in the Rachmaninoff litterature - it seems like a farfetched story, but I was provided with the following excerpt from a magazine (I have not seen the magazine, and even so I find it an odd piece of information). If anyone knows anything about this, please let me know. Perhaps the organist requested a commissioned piece, I don't know. Here is the information and I in no way confirm it - it is secondhand, and I will try to look up some references on my own if they in fact exist:

The American Organist magazine, September 1996, page 65, 2nd column, bottommost paragraph. It's part of the article "Charles Marie Courboin 1886-1973 Perhaps the Last Survivor of the Heroic Age of Organists: An Appreciation by His Student, Robert Arnold - With supplemental material compiled by Ray Biswanger." This is the reference in where yours truly found this information. The particular paragraph in question reads: "When Rachmaninoff died (1943), he was in the process of composing an organ concerto for Courboin. They met several times at the American Academy of Arts and Letters for organ/piano readings of the developing score." Footnote 19 of that article, on page 68 of the same issue, 2nd column, 5th paragraph from the top, reads "Courboin's son, Robert, says he does not have the manuscript for this work. He notes that his father was an admirer of Rachmaninoff and his technique, and possessed many of his recordings."

concertoboy
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2006 12:54 am

Re: Organ Concerto project?

Postby concertoboy » Mon Jun 06, 2011 4:01 pm

Well, I've heard back from one of the foremost Rachmaninoff scholars, a man who always amazes me with his scholarship and he wrote me the following - I am awaiting more information regarding what he says, sources and references, so we'[ll see how this information turns out - read below:

"Dear Shawn,

Easy to answer your--Courboin apparently spoke to someone in the Rachmaninoff entourage about commissioning a concerto (or requesting one--I never heard the detail of a monetary offer) and interpreted encouragement as acceptance. No question of SR even considering writing anything for the organ, much less actually committing notes to paper. That I have surmised from the one piece of hard evidence--a letter from SR to a third party saying he knew nothing about writing a piece for Courboin. This is one of four surviving recollections of correspondence pertaining to requests for concertos--a clarinetists (I forget which one), Courboin, Milstein (though that was half in jest) and Paul Wittgenstein. "

I am awaiting more information regarding what he says, sources and references, specifics on this correspondence, so we'[ll see how this information turns out.
Last edited by concertoboy on Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

Marianne
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Re: Organ Concerto project?

Postby Marianne » Mon Jun 06, 2011 8:33 pm

Quite an interesting question.

Anyway I can add that Courboin is never even mentioned in the Index of names of the Three Rachmaninoff volumes - Literaturnoe nasledie (edited by Z.A.Apetyan), which is my main reference book. Though this means actually almost nothing - this is 1980 year edition - time when many many materials of the foreign period of SVR's life were not available.

Anyway the answer is - there is no such concert...

concertoboy
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2006 12:54 am

Re: Organ Concerto project?

Postby concertoboy » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:35 am

I agree, no organ piece or concerto exists. Today, however, I received a definite response from the Library of Congress which has the Rachmaninoff Archive which was created by his wife Nathalie and daughter Princess Irina, grand-daughter Princess Sophie. There was a request sent to Rachmaninoff by Courboin, the letter is there, a draft response was prepared too, basically refusing any such request. Read here - I believe the draft response was prepared by Rachmaninoff's secretary - only the initials N.M. are given (which would be Mandrovsky who, according to the researcher I am in contact with, was Rachmaninoff's secretary in the 20's and all of the 1930's. Here is the response from the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C. :


Dear Mr. White:

The letter ... held within the Library of Congress's Rachmaninoff Archive, consists of an incomplete handwritten and signed letter on stationery of Charles M. Courboin which is dated New York, 21 October 1941; only the last page of an apparently multi-page letter has been preserved. The text of this letter consists of Courboin's suggestion that Rachmaninoff might consider the composition of a work for organ. The reverse side of this page contains a typed draft response to Courboin's inquiry from Rachmaninoff's secretary (signed only with the initials "N.M.") stating that Rachmaninoff was presently on a concert tour, and that Courboin's inquiry will be presented to Rachmaninoff upon his return for consideration. The letter does, however, close with the statement that Rachmaninoff's schedule "is to[o] strenuous to permit him to indulge in either social engagements or composition work." The absence of any further correspondence between Rachmaninoff and Courboin -- not to mention any organ works left to us by the composer -- would suggest that the composition of the proposed organ work was never pursued.

With best wishes,

Kevin LaVine
Senior Music Specialist
Library of Congress, Music Division


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