The Easiest Rachmaninoff Pieces for Piano (and the most difficult)

Today we’re looking at the easiest Rachmaninoff pieces for piano. It’s our latest installment for the “easiest of” series. We’ve done many other composers, including Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, and Debussy, but haven’t yet talked about the easiest Rachmaninoff pieces. Mainly because the idea of “easy” Rachmaninoff is kind of a joke!

We just did a video on the history of Rachmaninoff if you’d like a little backstory first.

I’ll be using the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) for when I refer to “grades” – ABRSM is similar, it just doesn’t go as high. I’ll also make a few comments on the Henle rating system, since some of you find that helpful.

I like to use all three of these classification systems because not every Rachmaninoff tune is on the RCM syllabus, or the ABRSM syllabus, or on Henle’s website.

Easiest Rachmaninoff: Categories

I find it useful to divide Rachmaninoff’s music into distinct categories, which we’ll discuss in turn. They are almost entirely advanced-level pieces, so you’ll want to stay away unless you’ve been playing piano for quite a few years.

This list doesn’t cover every single piano composition of Rachmaninoff, but it covers what I consider to be his core repertoire.

Preludes

Etudes-tableaux

Morceaux de fantasie, op 3

Piano concertos

Miscellaneous

Easiest Rachmaninoff: Preludes

Rachmaninoff has two books of piano preludes, op. 23 and op. 32. His first prelude, op. 3 no. 2 in C sharp minor, is probably his most well-known and is fairly playable by his own standards at a Henle level 6 (9 is the highest/hardest). This would be around a grade 10 RCM level.

These prelude collections were inspired by other composers who wrote Prelude cycles, such as Scriabin, Chopin, and of course Bach. One major difference between Rachmaninoff’s preludes and, say, Bach’s, are that Rachmaninoff’s aren’t arranged in any particular order of key. Bach’s are all paired off as C major/C minor, C# major/C# minor, and so on.

The books are as follows:

10 preludes, op 23

Thirteen Preludes, op 32

And the easiest selections are:

Op. 32 no. 11 (grade 10) (Henle 5)

Op. 23 no. 1 (Henle 5/6)

Op. 3, no. 2 (Henle 6, grade 10 RCM)

Op. 23 no. 4 (RCM ARCT) (Henle 6)

Op. 23 no. 6 (RCM ARCT) (DipABRSM) (Henle 6)

Op. 23 no. 10 (grade 10) (Henle 6)

Op. 32 no. 7 (Henle 6)

Op. 32 no. 12 (RCM ARCT) (DipABRSM) (Henle 6/7)

Etudes-tableaux

Overall, Rachmaninoff’s sets of etudes-tableaux are extremely difficult – some are among the most difficult piano repertoire ever. His op. 33 set is slightly “easier” than the op. 39 one, but they’re both very advanced.

With the exception of one (op. 33 no. 8), all of these etudes are an RCM ARCT level.

These are the collections of etudes:

Etudes-tableaux, op 33

Etudes-tableaux, op 39

And these are the easiest pieces:

Op. 33 no. 8 – RCM grade 10

Op. 33 no. 1 – Henle 6

Op. 33 no. 5 – Henle 6/7

Morceaux de fantasie, op 3

Rachmaninoff’s five Fantasy Pieces are among his most playable – though still very advanced. The prelude in C sharp minor (no. 2) is very famous – we already discussed it briefly in the “preludes” section of this video.

Elegie (no 1) – RCM grade 10

Prelude (no 2) – RCM grade 10

Melodie (no 3) – RCM grade 10

Serenade (no 5) – RCM grade 10

Polichinelle (no 4) – RCM ARCT

Piano concertos

We don’t talk about orchestral works like concertos on these videos, but I thought I would give them a brief mention. His concertos, like most concertos, are extremely difficult – more difficult than anything we’ve discussed on this list so far.

If you wanted to get your RCM licentiate, you could play one of his concertos. The second one is undoubtedly the most famous.

Piano Concerto no. 1 in F sharp minor, op. 1 (L)

Piano Concerto no. 2 in C minor, op. 18 (L)

Piano Concerto no. 3 in D minor, op. 30 (L)

Easiest Rachmaninoff: Miscellaneous

And last but not least, some miscellaneous works. His Variations on a Theme of Corelli and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini are both extremely challenging like the concertos, at a licentiate level.

However, the tune Daisies, transcribed from his collection of Six Romances, is one of his most playable piano pieces, at an ABRSM 8 level (about an RCM 10). It’s a great tune and while still very advanced, is a good entry-level piece for Rachmaninoff.

Daisies, op. 38 no. 3 (ABRSM 8)
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, op. 42 (LRCM) – Henle 8

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op. 43 (L)

Easiest Rachmaninoff summary

So to summarize, I’ve compiled a list of the easiest Rachmaninoff pieces. I said it before and I’ll say it again – none of these are remotely easy!

Prelude op. 32 no. 11 (grade 10) (Henle 5)

Prelude op. 23 no. 1 (Henle 5/6)

Prelude op. 3, no. 2 (Henle 6, grade 10 RCM)

Daisies, op. 38 no. 3 (ABRSM 8)

Etude-tableaux op. 33 no. 8 – RCM grade 10

Morceaux de fantasie, Elegie (no 1) – RCM grade 10

Morceaux de fantasie, Prelude (no 2) – RCM grade 10

Morceaux de fantasie, Melodie (no 3) – RCM grade 10

Morceaux de fantasie, Serenade (no 5) – RCM grade 10

conclusion

I hope you’ve been enjoying our introduction to Rachmaninoff – stay tuned for more Rachmaninoff videos in the near future!

xo,

Allysia