Rachmaninoff Versus Editor – Who is Right? It was the early 1920’s. My piano teacher took an audition to study piano with Sergei Rachmaninoff. The gist of the audition was this: Rachmaninoff was too busy giving concerts and composing to take on any students. But, he gave my piano instructor, Mischa Kottler, a letter of recommendation. The letter was addressed to Alfred Cortôt. Who was Alfred Cortôt? Alfred Denis Cortôt (born Nyon, 26 September 1877; died Lausanne, 15 June 1962) was a French–Swiss pianist and conductor. He is one of the most famous 20th century musicians. He was especially known for his playing of piano music by 19th century Romantic composers such as Chopin and Schumann. He formed a piano trio with the violinist Jacques Thibaud and the cellist Pablo Casals. Now back to Rachmaninoff versus Editor.
For Mischa Kottler’s audition, he played Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto for the composer. Sergei told Mischa after he finished: “That’s not how the editor marked the phrasing in the music!” Mischa told me at one of my piano lessons that he replied to Sergei:”I know. But I heard you play the concerto in concert. You did it the way I played it for you!”
Rachmaninoff Versus Editor …. The Composer Wins and so Does Mischa Kottler