A trip to Italy in 1900 with Chaliapin and the singer’s young wife stimulated Rachmaninov’s re-awakening imagination and, immediately upon his return, he wrote the Suite No 2 for two pianos, Op 17, the Piano Concerto No 2 and the Cello Sonata. Suite No 2 shows a marked advance over the first, attractive and characteristic though the earlier work be. The most immediately apparent aspect of the new work is its energy and tingling joie de vivre: in the opening ‘Alla marcia’ the notes cascade with almost breathless speed. This sensation of virtually limitless energy is carried over into the ‘Valse’, a scintillating movement which used frequently to be played separately. Even the warm and tender ‘Romance’ in 6/8 has an underlying sense of forward movement, and the final ‘Tarantelle’ is positively giddy, drawing this dazzling work to a precipitant close.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1990