Rachmaninov wrote his Third Piano Concerto, op.30, in 1909. By this date the 36-year old composer had written the most important two thirds of what would be his entire output: three operas and two symphonies, outstanding in their artistry and creativity. The Third Piano Concerto was conceived at this ‘golden mean’ in his creative life. This is not just a mathematical notion: I believe that the score is the most perfect reflection of Rachmaninov as artist and man. It is the embodiment of his contribution to the history of the new music. Rachmaninov was of course a genius, both as composer and pianist, but it was the piano concerto that was to be the synthesis and symbol of his musical gift, and the Third Piano Concerto indisputably represents the peak of his genius.
Chronologically the Third Piano Concerto belongs to the period described in Russia as the Silver Age. However, as a counterbalance to the centrifugal tendencies of this artistic period, the main creative thrust in Rachmaninov’s work is centripetal and the centre is in fact the Russian person, with all the spiritual and emotional attributes and intrinsic elements of that symbolic person. In the Third Piano Concerto, national traits are enveloped in a European virtuoso style but this style is interpreted in a more Russian way which is particularly effective. When we combine this with the deep personal nature of his musical expression, we can see that this work reflects not simply the power of the Russian style but also the lyricism of personal emotion.