Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian-American composer, pianist, and conductor. ("Sergei Rachmaninoff" was the spelling the composer himself used while living in the West throughout the latter half of his life, including when he became a United States citizen. However, alternative transliterations of his name include Sergey or Serge, and Rachmaninov, Rachmaninow, Rakhmaninov or Rakhmaninoff.)
While his reputation as composer only came later in life, Rachmaninoff's skill as pianist was well-known and highly respected; he often performed his own works as soloist. He was one of the greatest pianists of his generation, having legendary technical facilities and rhythmic drive, and his large hands were able to cover a thirteenth interval on the piano (a distance requiring a hand span of approximately twelve inches). Many recordings were made by the Victor Talking Machine Company recording label of him performing his own music as well as works from the standard repertoire.
His compositions include, among others, four piano concerti, three symphonies, two piano sonatas, three operas, a choral symphony (The Bells, based on the poem by Edgar Allan Poe), a setting of the Vespers, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 24 Preludes (including the famous Prelude in C-sharp minor), 17 Ã‰tudes, Symphonic Dances and many songs. Most of his pieces are in a late Romantic style akin to Tchaikovsky, although strong influences of Chopin and Liszt are apparent. Further inspiration included the music of Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Medtner (whom he considered the greatest contemporary composer) and Henselt. That being the case, many of Rachmaninoff's symphonic works are in the modern idiom that correspond with his 20th century contemporaries.