On Saturday, April 1, the Russian History Museum commemorated the 150th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birth with an online lecture by Dr. Valeria Z. Nollan. The lecture, “Sergei Rachmaninoff Re-Envisioned for the Twenty-First Century,” was presented as part of the Russian History Museum’s Second Saturday online lecture series.

Nollan’s lecture was based on Sergei Rachmaninoff: Cross Rhythms of the Soul, her recently published biography of the renowned composer-conductor-virtuoso pianist. The work evolved out of a multi-year project that included five Russian Rachmaninoff scholars and Nollan’s interviews with the composer’s grandson in Switzerland.

The lecture revealed new material on Rachmaninoff’s young adulthood, artistic and personal relationships with several women, attitudes towards American life and musical culture, and humanitarian work carried out across the course of his life. Perhaps most importantly, Nollan addressed the fullness of Rachmaninoff’s Russian Orthodox identity.

The lecture provided a sampling of the contents of the biography:

  1. Why the writing of yet another biography of Rachmaninoff was necessary
  2. Rachmaninoff’s Russian Orthodox identity
  3. Rachmaninoff’s humanitarian work; and
  4. Rachmaninoff’s muses.

Prof. Nollan punctuated her presentation with short readings from the biography to illustrate the distinguished musical artist’s wit, self-deprecating humor, compositional method, and humanity.

About the Speaker

Valeria Z. Nollan, Ph.D., is professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College.  She also has professional identities as a published poet and performing musician.  She taught as a full-time professor at Oberlin College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Rhodes College. Internationally she developed courses at Estudio Sampere in Cuba, and at St. Petersburg State Economic University in Russia.  She has presented lectures and poetry readings in academic settings in Havana, Cuba; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia; Rome, Italy; London and Coventry, England; and Honolulu, Hawaii. She is a past president of the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture (ASEC).

Prof. Nollan’s books include Sergei Rachmaninoff: Cross Rhythms of the Soul (Lexington Books, 2022); translation of The Philosophical Principles of Integral Knowledgeby Vladimir Solovyov (William B. Eerdmans, 2008); Bakhtin: Ethics and Mechanics (editor; Northwestern University Press, 2004); and translation of A Time to Gather Stones, by Vladimir Soloukhin (Northwestern University Press, 1993). Her articles on Sergei Rachmaninoff have appeared in Russian and American journals, she participated in the Steering Committee of the UK Rachmaninoff Society (2003-06), and was on the editorial board of the bilingual Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff. Scholarly Edition of the Complete Collected Works (2007-19)Her latest poetry book is Holocaust of the Noble Beasts (Goldfish Press, 2020). Her current book project celebrates American jazz and is titled The Musical Art of Donald Brown.