Rachmaninov’s Hands and his Prelude in C Sharp Minor

So I was able to get the sheet music for Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C sharp minor from pianostreet.com. This site is for pianists and needs a subscription but I got the full score with playing instructions (!) without signing up – so maybe it’s part of their free collection. In any case it’s a great resource, download it here: Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp with notes

I noticed the first bar in the right hand fingered the notes with 2nd and 3rd fingers, something I’d never seen before. The notes suggest the support assists in getting the required fortissimo:Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 10.51.25 AM.png Looking through other score images to confirm the fingering I found this:

Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 10.53.27 AM.png

Look at his hands! Obviously the illustrator makes him look like the giant from Jack and Beanstalk but this photo suggests they were unusually massive as well:


This led me down a path reading about Rachmaninov- apparently he could play this chord with left hand:

C3Eflat3G3C4 – and wait for it G5 with his thumb….

My own left hand can stretch an 11th but I can’t get my second finger to the C4, let alone the G5 with my thumb. Seems fairly impossible to me. If you’ve got a piano give it a go!

I do wonder how much these powerful hands influenced his style. Obviously he is one of the greatest piano composer to have ever lived but would his music have been any different had he been born with regular hands. Really don’t know – but it’s interesting to think about.

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