One of the greatest pianists of all time, and one of the most popular and most performed composers of the 20th century, it's small wonder that Sergei Rachmaninoff struggled to balance his life as a performer & as a composer.
The work for which he's still best known, the Prelude in C#min, was composed even before he'd graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire! (Graduated, incidentally, with the highest accolades anybody had ever known). It was with this piece that he first launched himself in his London concert debut in 1899. Rachmaninoff's music is characterised by memorable soaring melodies, rich orchestration, Romantic chromatic harmonies, with distinctive Russian flavour. His Piano Concerto No.2 of 1901 is one of most widely-programmed of all concert works, and his Piano Concerto No.3 (featured in the film 'Shine') is popularly held as the most testing concerto for a professional pianist.
After the October Revolution in 1917, Rachmaninoff decided he must flee Russia, and he never returned - after he and his family sailed to America in November 1918, he toured extensively as a pianist, settling in Switzerland in 1934, where his late works included Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Yet identity remained a fact of great importance to him:
"A composer's music should express the country of his birth, his love affairs, his religion, the books which have influenced him, the pictures he loves... My music is the product of my temperament, and so it is Russian music." — Sergei Rachmaninoff