Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – #17 Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

Sergei Rachmaninoff composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1909 as part of the tour of the United States he had planned for the fall of that year. He had the premiere of the Concerto with the New York Symphony. The following year, he performed it again with Gustav Mahler conducting the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. Man, that would have been nice to see, Mahler conducting with Rachmaninoff at the piano. 

Rachmaninoff treasured that moment, noting Mahler “touched my composer’s heart straight away by devoting himself to my Concerto until the accompaniment, which is rather complicated, had been practiced to the point of perfection…according to Mahler, every detail of the score was important–an attitude which is unfortunately rare amongst conductors.” (

It fascinates me what inspires a creation of art, the spark. In this case, Rachmaninoff had a theme, a very simple theme that he said just wrote itself. This beautiful, melancholy theme starts his third piano concerto in such plain and simple terms that one will be shocked at the passionate desire that awaits the listener further in the Concerto. The first movement is in a sonata-allegro form, not the double exposition of concertos of the past, but rather the more symphonic sonata-allegro form. In this Concerto, the orchestra definitely takes the backstage to the soloist, who gets to show off his chops. Just look at this page in the cadenza for the first movement!

The second movement is an adagio as a theme and variations shifting into the third movement without pause. The third movement brings back some of the themes and ideas from the first movement as a bit of a recapitulation. It ends triumphantly and with virtuosity, as Rachmaninoff gives the pianist more opportunities to hammer at the klavier one last time. 

In terms of performances, Daniil Trifonov is a great current performer, particularly of Rachmaninoff. However, I’m going to put on here Martha Argerich’s performance with Riccardo Chailly and the Radio Symphony Orchester Berlin. Martha Argerich is pretty amazing on the piano, and she makes Rachmaninoff look easy, particularly this extremely difficult piece. Enjoy!

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

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