In Which We Fight Over A Composer’s Body

Russia wants Rachmaninoff back: 

Despite considering himself “the most Russian of Russians,” writes Mary Jane Ayers, Rachmaninoff watched his bourgeois way of life evaporate during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. That year, he fled to Sweden and later the United States, where he worked as an acclaimed concert pianist. Though the composer mourned his country for the rest of his life, he never returned.

Russia’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, recently called on the United States to repatriate the composer’s remains in what the BBC calls “a lavish mausoleum” on his old country estate. But the move appears to be less about a composer’s final resting place and more about tense Russian-American relations. The BBC quotes Medinsky as claiming that Americans have neglected the composer’s grave while attempting to “shamelessly privatize” his name, and the AFP notes that the minister accuses the United States of presenting Rachmaninoff as “an American composer of Russian origin.”


2 thoughts on “In Which We Fight Over A Composer’s Body

  1. There’s a very cheap “decomposing composer” joke to be had here, but I’d like to think I’m far too fine a person to make it.


  2. He did compose very little of consequence in the 26 years after he came to America (Symphony #3, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini–which is indeed indispensable–, the Corelli Variations, a bunch of piano transcriptions of other composers’ work and a handful of songs), so I have no qualms whatsoever about considering him a thoroughly Russian composer. The vast majority of his output was created in Russia, including almost all of his best-known work. I think being away from home (and having to perform constantly to make a living) took a lot out of him. Let him go home.

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