Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (Russian pronunciation: ; 1 April 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom that included a pronounced lyricism, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity, and a tonal palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output. He made a point of using his own skills as a performer to explore fully the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Even in his earliest works he revealed a sure grasp of idiomatic piano writing and a striking gift for melody.
Rachmaninoff (Russian: Сергей Васильевич Рахманинов) was born on 1 April 1873 in Semyonovo, near Veliky Novgorod, in north-western Russia. He was born into a family of the Russian aristocracy, originally of partly Tatar descent, who had been in the service of the Russian tsars since the 16th century. His parents were both amateur pianists. When he was four, his mother gave him casual piano lessons, but it was his paternal grandfather, Arkady Alexandrovich Rachmaninoff, who brought Anna Ornatskaya, a teacher from Saint Petersburg, to teach Sergei in 1882. Ornatskaya remained for "two or three years", until the family home had to be sold to settle debts and the Rachmaninoffs moved to Saint Petersburg.
Sergei studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory before moving alone to Moscow to study piano under Nikolai Zverev and Alexander Siloti (who was his cousin and a former student of Franz Liszt). He also studied harmony under Anton Arensky and counterpoint under Sergei Taneyev. Rachmaninoff was found to be quite lazy, failing most of his classes, and it was the strict regime of the Zverev home that instilled discipline in the boy.