Often regarded as the last colossus of Russian romanticism, Sergei Rachmaninov enjoyed an unparalleled career as a composer, conductor, virtuoso pianist, and recording artist. A student of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, his output contains some of the seminal works of the early twentieth century, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934), and the Symphonic Dances (1940).
These two songs are the first and last in a collection of Six Romances Op. 4 for voice and piano, composed in the early 1890s, whilst Rachmaninov was living in Moscow. The first, Oh no, I pray, don’t leave!, is set to words by the Russian poet Dimitri Merezhkovsky – beseeching a loved one to stay – while the final work, How long, my friend? (using a text by Arseny Golenishchev-Kutuzov) is a melancholic, emotional reminiscence of a moment passed.