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Garcia, E.E. (2004). Rachmaninoff's Emotional Collapse and Recovery: The First Symphony and Its Aftermath. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(2):221-238.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(2):221-238

Rachmaninoff's Emotional Collapse and Recovery: The First Symphony and Its Aftermath

Emanuel E. Garcia, M.D.

When an artist of the talent and stature of Sergei Rachmaninoff bequeaths to posterity an autobiographical account, all those with an interest in the psychology of creativity must be thankful: For no matter how incomplete or biased, how affected by the natural defects of memory, conscious or unconscious censorship and coloring, such a person cannot help but reveal something essential. The task of the psychoanalytic researcher then is to tease from the set of recollections those representations and patterns that may shed light on the secrets of creativity.

Rachmaninoff's case holds special value because he describes events that extinguished his will to compose, as well as the treatment that restored him. Such episodes tend to bring more keenly into focus the complexities of talent. It thus behooves us, despite the all-too-evident shortcomings of our methodology and science, to make the attempt to deepen our understanding of the creative act and of the efficacy of certain psychotherapeutic approaches.


Exactly what possessed Rachmaninoff to dictate his Recollections to Oskar von Riesemann (Riesemann, 1934), a friend and conductor, when he was not quite sixty years of age, is unclear.

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