Sergei Rachmaninoff was not only an outstanding composer, pianist, and conductor but also a collector. He collected technical novelties that he himself enjoyed using: he warmed up his hands with an electric hand warmer before performances and drank tea from an electric kettle at home. In his estate in Ivanovka, Tambov, Rachmaninoff drove a luxurious sports phaeton called Lorelei. 

The composer drove not only his relatives and friends in it but also local peasants and boys. 

Having settled in Switzerland after the revolution, Rachmaninoff bought a motorboat, learned to operate it, and jokingly called himself “brave navigator Vasco da Gama.” 

Rachmaninoff supported aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky. After the revolution, Sikorsky moved to the USA. The future Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation emerged in a shed of an abandoned poultry farm with only one airplane. The company was experiencing financial difficulties, and its employees received hardly any pay. Unexpectedly, help came from Rachmaninoff. As Sikorsky’s son recollects, his father spent his last $20 on a ticket to a concert by the great pianist and went backstage during intermission. Having heard about his fellow countryman’s tough situation, Rachmaninoff handed him a check for $5,000 with the words “I believe in your airplane.” By the way, Rachmaninoff quickly recognized the advantages of air travel. In an interview to a French newspaper journalist, the composer said, “Just imagine, yesterday I played in London. Today at noon, I flew from there by plane, and two hours later, I was in Paris. Tonight, I have to catch a train and go to Zurich. It’s not good to fly in the old age. But there’s no other way, otherwise you can’t make it!”

Natalia Tartakovskaya.
Materials provided
by the Russian National Museum of Music