Fast on the Draw

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by M G

Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 8:33 p.m. EST (Updated 30 Aug 2016)

Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2
Restoration by
Bob Varney. License.

Rachmaninoff’s first Prelude is the second piece of a set of five pieces entitled Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3, which isn’t an actual fantasy. Its title reflects “imagery” rather than musical form. What comes to your mind when you hear it?

I’m not sure exactly what I imagine, but I find it stirring. Indeed it “portrays” the inherent power of intense feeling. It’s almost as if I see me slowly wandering through an old graveyard, commonly associated with Claribelendings, the hope of new beginnings (however mere such a hope might be), and a truth common to all people…or even through an old Victorian house or hotel, sensing within me a tremendous reverence, perhaps for a personage whom I may have greatly admired at some time in the distant past, combined with a sense of loss that we may never be reunited. The sentiment is mixed with a dose of hope that we might be “at one” again, but in a better place and time, which is yet to come.

“…will Portman have to disclose his dealings with the supernatural?”

Sen. Rob Portman’s haunted hotel

Isn’t it marvelous that we’re able to hear such a wonderful old piece actually performed by its original composer? Rachmaninoff first performed it at the age of 19 in 1892 and premiered it in 1903 in Moscow. I hear a blend of nostalgia and melancholy (Rachmaninoff’s own family having been part of an old aristocracy). The fact that he composed it 25 years before the downfall of the Tsarist government reveals he may have begun to sense in the socio-economic-political climatethe earliest winds of change, which we can hear in the composition’s rich (yet foreboding) tone.

The period from about 1910 to 1917 marked a transition period in classical music from the traditional (the past) to modernity (the future).

Benedicthorse…in the state of public and private morals as well as the constitutions and laws of nations, there is a general disregard and forgetfulness of the supernatural, a gradual falling away from the strict standard of Christian virtue, and that men are slipping back into the shameful practices of paganism.
Humani generis redemptionem

Rachmaninoff, however, stuck to the style of the old romantic music, even after its greatest influence had waned. You can hear how his first Prelude fades out in a soft and beautiful exit. “My goodbye is unofficial,” it seems to say. “I might be back someday to finish it.”

33968vI attached the piece for its ghostlike quality. This site is about, generally speaking, the supernatural, something greater which encompasses material reality, something universal which holds the cosmos together, a divine truth.

To be “fast on the draw” can mean to be perceptive (observant), intelligent (clever), vigilant (on guard, careful, on the lookout), and also spirited (passionate). It’s also old media lingo for being first to learn and disseminate the news, reminiscent of being quick on the draw back in the days of the Old West.


Three Cheyenne men wearing ceremonial clothing and holding rifles, greeting a Euro-American man in a suit and his interpreter in front of a building.

Do you know where the “mystery sketch” (entitled Claribel) comes from? It’s from an illustrated book Tennyson: Illustratedby an author even older than Rachmaninoff. In fact, the book’s author (from the Victorian period) passed away the same year (1892) that Rachmaninoff first performed Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2.

Some old objects have been reported by some people to be haunted. This book isn’t. It’s just inspiring.

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