Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Musical Arts




Nolan, Catherine

2nd Supervisor

Sylvestre, Stéphan

3rd Supervisor

Kinton, Leslie


This monograph examines the post-exile, multi-version works of Sergei Rachmaninoff with a view to unravelling the sophisticated web of meanings and values attached to them. Compositional revision is an important and complex aspect of creating musical meaning. Considering revision offers an important perspective on the construction and circulation of meanings and discourses attending Rachmaninoff’s music.

While Rachmaninoff achieved international recognition during the 1890s as a distinctively Russian musician, I argue that Rachmaninoff’s return to certain compositions through revision played a crucial role in the creation of a narrative and set of tropes representing “Russian diaspora” following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. These revisions produced multi-version works that exist alongside each other, offering an invaluable lens through which to examine the complex nature of Rachmaninoff’s own sense of national identity and how that identity attends the performance and appreciation of his music. I examine the confluence of composition revision, national identity, and several discourses as they are articulated surrounding these works. I use Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of “cultural capital” to argue that Rachmaninoff consciously intended his works to construct what I term “diasporic capital.”

I contextualize my analysis with a brief history of Rachmaninoff and a discussion of diasporic capital embedded in his music. The main part of the monograph consists of three detailed case studies: an analysis of the first movement of Piano Concerto No. 1; the first movement of Piano Sonata No. 2; and the first movement of Piano Concerto No. 4. I consider historical, artistic, and cultural aspects of the composition and reception of each work, and how Rachmaninoff’s revisions created a site of constructing diasporic capital.