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Rubinstein: Symphonies Vol. 1 CD

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Rubinstein: Symphony No. 1 / Ivan The Terrible
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Frequently bought together

  • Rubinstein: Symphonies Vol. 1
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Total price: £22.84
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Košice Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Róbert Stankovský
  • Composer: Anton Rubinstein
  • Audio CD (30 April 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00005COXX
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,677 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 1 in F Major, Op. 40 - Czecho-Slovak State PO/Stankovsky.
  2. Ivan The Terrible, Op. 79 - Czecho-Slovak State PO/Stankovsky.

Product description

NAX 8555476; NAXOS - Germania; Classica Orchestrale

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Anton Rubinstein's first symphony dates from 1850, a period in his life when he was consciously and resolutely eschewing any Russian nationalist influences on his music. It stands therefore firmly in the Central European/German oriented musical tradition and if there could be said to be any well-known composer influencing this work, it would probably be Mendelssohn.

If Mendelssohn is an influence, however, it's in the sense that the music sounds derivative of - rather than inspired by - the greater composer and Rubinstein's symphony is a ploddingly old-fashioned sounding piece for 1850. What really strikes you about this music is the extreme poverty of invention, particularly in the outer movements where there is nary a musical motif or melody to capture your interest in the eminently conventional symphonic argument. The harmony is pedestrian and rhythmically the music is stodgy and laboured. Rubinstein's orchestration is very ordinary as well, with little evidence of a gift for - or even an interest in - colour or effect. If the work had been composed in the German lands that are its spiritual home, it would probably have been labelled "Kapellmeister music" - the description accurately reflects its workmanlike and professional characteristics but even so is perhaps unfair to the second and third rank composers who actually were writing similarly competent and unadventurous but more memorably charming music than we have here.

The `Musical Portrait - Ivan the Terrible' (also known as `Ivan IV') is a later work, hailing from 1869 when the Mighty Handful had started to make their mark on the Russian musical scene.
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This symphony is full of youthful high spirits and confidence, it bounds along with rhythm and melodic invention. Tchaikovsky thought that Raff and Rubinstein were the foremost symphonic composers of his day, while I may not be able to agree with Tchaikovsky on that one when symphonic composers as wonderful as Dvorak and Brahms were his contemporaries, for me Tchaikovsky's opinion carries more weight than a whole heap of critics who pass on the received opinions concerning Rubinstein's music without actually thinking. Tchaikovsky's bracketing of Raff and Rubinstein together is informative, both composers continue the legacy of Mendelssohn, both composers rely on the strings as the basis of orchestral writing, and both composers approach the tradition of instrumental composition with an earnestness of purpose. Rubinstein's first symphony also has Beethovian influences, the occasional chromatic bass line in the first movement brings to mind passages in the first movement of Beethoven's 7th, as the slow and deliberate tread of the Moderato third movement of Rubinstein's first recalls the second movement of Beethoven's 7th. I suspect the marching thymes of the finale of Rubinstein's first are an attempt to emulate the finale of Beethoven's 7th, but here Rubinstein falls some way short - perhaps a quicker tempo in the finale would have helped. That said the symphony is well worth listening to, it is joyful and positive with singable melodic content. The orchestra plays well enough, but I would love to hear the Berlin Phil or Vienna Phil give a real sheen and polish to the string sound of this symphony.

Ivan the Terrible is a far more Lisztian composition, in conception and in orchestration, it gives a surprisingly considered view of this complex Russian despot.
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excellent recording
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Russian 24 Oct. 2014
By Joshua Grasso - Published on Amazon.com
Anton Rubinstein's music is almost totally neglected, with only a handful of works emerging on disc, and virtually none in the concert hall. He's known more by legend as Tchaikovsky's famous teacher who once scolded him for the audacious orchestration to his early tone poem, The Storm. Yet in his day he was extremely well-known as a pianist and composer, and many of his works held the stage to great acclaim. While I won't make extravagant claims for his music (it's quite inferior to Tchaikovsky, for example) it's still enormously exciting, representing the best of the conservative side of 19th century Romanticism. Rubinstein learned the lessons of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schumann quite well, and emulated many of their strengths in his music, while adding his own blend of Slavic darkness. While nothing here sounds remarkably "Russian," it definitely isn't German, either. However, the composer he most resembles is Schumann, though with Mendelssohn's talent for orchestration. All six of his symphonies are worthy to stand beside Schumann's Four (as lesser, but related works, perhaps) and in some small ways, Rubinstein can occasionally be preferred to Schumann's orchestral style.

Rubinstein's youthful First Symphony is a case in point: it reminds me a lot of Schumann's First and Second symphonies, particularly the scherzo and the finale of the Second. It starts out with a stern, but not very serious motif which becomes all light and airiness. It's very much a 'spring' symphony, and has some nice tunes which stay in the memory (without, of course, reaching Schumann's level). The scherzo is as inspired as anything the Mighty Five wrote in their own symphonies, and bears comparison with the scherzos of Balakirev. However, whereas Balakirev is more rambunctious and folk-like, Rubinstein is graceful--always with a look back at his Classical heritage. The slow movement is not entirely tragic, yet it has a wistful, almost operatic seriousness--a little melodramatic, perhaps, but still very pleasing. To me, the finale is the highlight, full of a very engaging theme which reminds me a little of the high spirits of Schumann's First. At 9 minutes it never wears out its welcome and is a dashing conclusion to a very enjoyable symphony.

Since this is a re-release of the earlier Marco Polo disc, the sound isn't perfect--a bit boxy and hollow. The orchestra plays quite well and is inside this music, though they obviously don't have the power of a major symphony orchestra. Stankovsky seems to know and appreciate Rubinstein and I think he does a great job with this work, though I would have liked to hear Guzenhauser have a go at it (he does Rubinstein's more famous 2nd symphony for Marco Polo/Naxos).

The Ivan the Terrible Overture is a massive, sprawling work--episodic like Liszt's late tone poems. However, it's much less vulgar than something like Hamlet, or From the Cradle to the Grave, or The Ideals. It's brooding without being too dark, has some nice drama and tunes, and toward the end, introduces a clever march which really sticks in your head. It's a fascinating piece and would be nice to resurrect in the concert hall as forgotten voice among 19th century Russian composers.

From here I would recommend going for his 2nd symphony, the "Ocean" symphony, which is surely his finest (especially the 7 movement version--don't settle for the early 4 movement one--much good music is lost). His 3rd symphony is similar to this one, yet with a little less sparkle (though I know it the least of his symphonies), and his 4th is an attempt to be more dramatic--indeed, it's called "The Dramatic." It's a fine work, maybe a tad overlong, but it shows Rubinstein in his best Beethoven/Liszt mode. However, perhaps my favorite his symphonies after the 2nd is his 6th, which is close to a masterpiece. It's very concise, full of great music, and a surprising sense of drive and flow--as if he had been really learning from his former student, Tchaikovsky. And the Naxos disc comes with his best tone poem, Don Quixote. Give Rubinstein a chance and if you don't expect a master, you'll find yourself enjoying some unfairly neglected, surprising music.
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