This is a concerto Rachmaninoff compose after healing from a severe depression. After a disappointment of his symphony and the bad comments from Tolstoy, who was distant to any kind of art at that moment, Rachmaninoff was in a depression. After his healing process, the first thing he composed was the 2nd piano concerto that is a popular loved piece and used everywhere...
The piece is written in a late-romantic style although Rachmaninoff was a 20th century composer. There is a melody and the proper rhythm. However, this is a piano concerto, and normally ( if it was in the romantic style) it is expected to start with a piano. Because piano is a solo instrument and orchestra is there to accompany it. However, piece starts with distant chords by piano, and then orchestra plays the beautiful melody and piano make the accompaniment. This is a late romantic manner.
Piano starts with different chords, like asking a question to itself, and answering with the same answer on the bases everytime. Than the orchestra takes it over and explain him. The melody is slow, heavy, progressive but there is a pride in it, so decisive, knows where to go, like a ceremony. Piano makes arpeggios, like a lot of opinion is in his mind and although orchestra helps him, he cannot find the way.
There is a second theme by the piano. It is more like an improvisation than composed. Orchestra takes the 1st theme again, and develop it together with the piano. There is an explanation around 6.38 and then the first theme reappears. There was a climax, but now we are settled again with the motives of the first theme. Piano is always more energetic than the orchestra until now. Even in that sad melody, piano was giving aggressive chords. We expect a high and long climax but instead in 20 secs coda is done. (10.30 – 10.50)
Now, we are in the 2nd movement that is more slow and tired, barely a melody. Again, the melody is in the clarinet and piano just accompanies. Piano makes arpeggios until 5.11 mins. Again, we have a climax in the middle around 7.47 and then slows it down. It is a circular form. In the end of the movement, we are slowly fading out, but piano makes a small climax like passage just to leave it in the air.
The third movement is fast again, because this is the concerto form (Fast – Slow- Fast). In the 3rd theme we have a Russian traditional folk theme that is developed and improvised upon. In 02.04 we have a similar melody to the 1st movement, slow, decisive, heavy and thick. Also we can hear some 2nd theme motives in that theme around 2.38 – 3.12. In the end, we have a huge climax, that we cannot decide the coda. 10.29 is a certain climax that we are given the themes again in high registration. We are slowing down, most romantic place of the piece, but then speeding and getting higher higher. But when orchestra gets ascending, piano is descending as a last surprise of the late romantic style.
For a masterpiece like this, that depression is perhaps needed, Otherwise the melodies of gratitude, pride of survive, that heaviness could not be achieved probably.