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Aug. 18, 2009

Smith College to Mark 100th Anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninoff Concert

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- On the centennial of famed Russian pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff’s North American debut at Smith College, the college will commemorate the event with a concert.

Rachmaninoff’s performance, which took place at Smith in November 1909, was the first public solo recital ever given by the distinguished musician, composer and conductor. It forged a connection with Smith that brought him back to campus three times for additional concerts.

In commemoration of the event, Vladimir Tropp, Gnessin Russian Academy of Music and Moscow Conservatory musician, will perform at the Sweeney Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, a concert that is free and open to the public. Just prior to his performance, at 7:30 p.m., Smith will dedicate a bust of Rachmaninoff that commissioned and donated by Tropp.

“Rachmaninoff’s performance at Smith College marked the modest start of what became an extraordinarily successful American career over several decades,” said Joan Afferica, L. Clark Seelye Professor Emerita of History and chair of the Rachmaninoff Centennial Committee. “The importance of this anniversary brings to the college outstanding specialists from Russia and the United States who will address the composer’s musical legacy and his unprecedented commercial success.”

The concert is the highlight of a series of events that celebrate both Rachmaninoff and his cousin and sister-in-law, Sophie Satin, who came to Smith to serve as a visiting associate professor of botany with Albert Francis Blakeslee and his Genetics Experimental Station.

A century ago, the Smith concert was the first of more than two-dozen appearances on that tour. The program, performed in College Hall, consisted entirely of his original compositions, including Sonata in D minor, Op. 28, Melodie, Humoresque, Barcarolle and Polichinelle.

Fittingly, the Smith College Monthly ran a review of Rachmaninoff’s performance by Elsie I. Sweeney, after whom the Smith concert hall was later named.

“While the program was almost entirely new to the audience, the high artistic excellence of his interpretations was appreciated,” wrote Sweeney. “His playing was marked by the greatest variety and beautify of tone and delicate passages.”

Pianist Tropp has performed and taught master classes in Russia and countries throughout Europe, America and Asia for the past several decades. Known for his repertoire of romantic music, his series of CDs titled “Russian Miniatures” won the Record Academy Award as the year’s best in 1998.

In Russia, Tropp serves as vice president of the Rachmaninoff Society and he regularly judges piano competitions, including the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition in Moscow.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
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