At about a quarter to ten, I take the elevator up to the Claire Tow rehearsal room to organize myself for the day. I greet the cast and staff as they arrive and partake in their morning preparations. All of this is permeated by the sounds of Rachmaninoff’s music seeping through the closed door of the music room. Inside, Or Matias, our music director off-stage and our pianist onstage, practices with great joy and focus. Or has developed a deep connection to the man and his music over the past two years he has worked with Rachel Chavkin and Dave Malloy in developing Preludes, so I asked him to tell me more about his relationship to the music that is at the core of our story.

I asked Or how he thinks Dave has used Rachmaninoff’s music in the action of Preludes to successfully tell his story? He replied,

One of the many brilliant things Dave has done in this piece is to dig deep into the character of Rachmaninoff's music. The over-arching story in Preludes is often as equally told through musical gesture as it is through text. Moreover, Dave has located Rachmaninoff's instrumental music that lends itself to vocalizing, and has used it as a source of inspiration for many of Dave's original songs in the piece. Threading and fusing both worlds - the Dave Malloy world and the Sergei Rachmaninoff world - creates an incredibly unique synthesis which both honors and renews.

I went on. You work tirelessly on practicing Rachmaninoff’s music. You are constantly playing, never leaving the stage. With so much practicing and playing Rachmaninoff’s pieces, how has your relationship grown to his music? Are you at all tired of playing his pieces?

Since I began playing piano (at 3 years old!), I've always had an incredibly visceral reaction to Rachmaninoff's music. Somehow with Rachmaninoff's music, practicing never quite feels like the all-dreaded-praaaaacticiiiiiiiiing. All the typical arduous, monotonous exercises give way to constant discovery. He writes for the piano like a great orchestrator. The inner harmonies and layered contrapuntal themes always surprise and refresh, even in pieces that I have seemingly played hundreds of times.” 

Rachel M. Stevens is the Assistant Director of Preludes. Her conversation with Or Matias is continued in Some Words About The Music (part 2 of 2).