A staple of the solo piano recital, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Sonata, op. 36, stands as one of the final romantic submissions to the art of the piano sonata. Rachmaninoff first published the sonata in 1913, and he returned to the piece in 1931 to revise it substantially, removing about five minutes from its performance time. Despite its compositional, emotional, and physical virtuosity, the work has received little analytic attention regarding the relationship between the two versions. This paper investigates the consequences of Rachmaninoff’s revisions by constructing a musical narrative for the sonata. The process illuminates structures within the piece that are central to its dramatic progression, and how revisions within certain sections can fundamentally transform the expressive relation between conflicting musical ideas.



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