Following the form of what can be considered a standard concerto, the piece is in three movements:
Evgeny Kissin once said that Rachmaninov's talents were not "virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity"; instead, they were an incredible combination of passion and musicality. The Rach 3 is feared by all pianists. Joseph Hoffman, a pianist to whom the work is dedicated, never attempted to play it, saying that it "wasn't for" him.
Due to time constraints, Rachmaninov could not practice the piece while in Russia. Instead, he took a silent keyboard with him on a ship to the US, on which he started, and finished his work on the masterpiece.
It was first performed on November 28, 1909 by the New York Symphony Society with Walter Damrosch conducting and Rachmaninov appearing as the guest artist on piano. It was first published in 1910 by Gutheil. A typical performance lasts around 45 minutes.
It was popularized by the movie Shine, which portrayed the prodigal Australian pianist David Helfgott performing "the hardest piece in the world" for a concerto competition at the Royal College of Music in England.
The best and most played recording are the Vladimir Horowitz recordings.