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ClassicsOnline Home » RUBINSTEIN: Violin Concerto, Op. 46 / Don Quixote, Op. 87
Violin Concerto in G,
(Humoresque for orchestra) Op. 87
achieved the height of fame as a pianist, a rival and successor to Liszt. His
abilities as a composer, however, attracted less favourable notice. Liszt was
to refer to him as the pseudo-Musician of the future. In the same letter to his
friend Dr. Brendel he refers to Rubinstein's obvious facility as a composer –
he may sow his wild oats and fish deeper in the Mendelssohn waters, and even
swim away if he likes: but, sooner or later, I am certain he will give up the
obvious and the conventional for the organically real.
If Rubinstein failed
to arouse the well known generosity of Liszt, he met an even cooler reception
from an increasingly important group of contemporaries in his native Russia,
where his castigation of the Russian nationalist composers grouped around
Balakirev as amateurs aroused the animosity of the most influential writer of
the movement, Vladimir Stasov, who claimed that few of Rubinstein's
compositions rose above mediocrity, finding exceptions only in works of an
exotic tinge, and in the humorous Don Quixote.
By education and
inclination Rubinstein was a conservative composer of the more traditional
German school. It was, therefore, understandable that his relationship with
Russian nationalist composers should initially have been cold, and that the
music of Liszt and, still more, of Wagner should have proved unacceptable to
him. The former in his harsh judgement of Rubinstein's Ocean Symphony –
listening to it, you feel everything you would feel on a sea-voyage, including
seasickness – is anticipating the kind of ridicule Rubinstein and his circle
were to pour on Liszt's Music of the Future.
Anton Rubinstein was
born in a district of Russia near the frontier of modern Romania, the son of
German-Jewish parents, who, like Mendelssohn's father and mother, had chosen to
become Christians, a choice that both Mendelssohn and Rubinstein stressed in a
number of sacred works, further evidence of the baptism that the Jewish poet
Heine had described as a ticket of admission into European culture.
After early piano
lessons with his mother, Rubinstein became a pupil of Alexander Villoing in
Moscow, where the family had settled, and by the age of nine was ready to make
his first public appearance, followed, during the next three years, by a series
of concert tours taking him to Paris, the Netherlands, England, Scandinavia and
Germany. In 1844 the Rubinsteins moved to Berlin, where they remained until the
death of Anton Rubinstein's father in 1846. The period in Prussia allowed study
with Siegfried Dehn, Glinka's former teacher, and acquaintance with Mendelssohn
For two years after
his father's death Anton Rubinstein lived in Vienna, alleviating his poverty by
giving piano lessons, and much in need of the kind of practical assistance that
Liszt might have given him, had he been so inclined. Unusually, the latter had
refused to accept Rubinstein as a pupil when he heard him play in 1846, perhaps
sensing in him a possible rival.
It was through the
help of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, a German princess married to the
brother of the Tsar, that Rubinstein achieved his first outstanding success as
an adult, at first as her protégé in St. Petersburg. By 1854 he had resumed his
career as a virtuoso, and at the end of the decade he established, under the
patronage, the Russian Musical Society, followed, in 1862, by the St.
Petersburg Conservatory, of which he was the first director. He relinquished
office in 1867, and resumed it briefly between 1887 and 1890. He died in 1894.
devoted much of his energy to concert performance as one of the greatest
pianists of his day, to conducting, and to composition. As a pianist his
repertoire was enormous, his style and appearance giving rise to the improbable
rumour that he was the illegitimate son of Beethoven. His work in St.
Petersburg involved him in conducting concerts for the Russian Musical Society
that might serve as a model of German taste, as opposed to the wilder attempts
of Balakirev's rival Free Music School and its endeavours towards musical
nationalism. His brother Nikolay Rubinstein, a player of comparable ability,
was similarly involved in the Russian Musical Society and the Conservatory in
The Violin Concerto
in G, Opus 46, written in 1857, when Rubinstein was 28, at a time when the
establishment of a professional Conservatory in Russia was under discussion, is
unjustly neglected. There is nothing particularly Russian about the work, which
shows the fine craftsmanship of a Mendelssohn and an undoubtedly professional
technical command of structure and orchestration. The three movements of the
concerto provide an admirable opportunity for virtuoso performance.
Don Quixote, a musical picture after Cervantes, was
written in 1870, the year before Rubinstein's period as conductor of the
Philharmonic concerts in Vienna and a subsequent American tour with Wieniawski.
The work has a clear enough narrative intention, from the chivalrous ambitions
of Don Quixote, his love for the imagined Dulcinea del Toboso, through various
mistaken adventures to his death, a moment of final pathos.
Rubinstein shows us
Don Ouixote's awakening ambitions, as he reads romances of chivalry, dons his
rusty armour and mounts his steed Rocinante. A flock of sheep, mistaken for an
army, is routed, and there is an encounter with three village women, one of
whom seems to Don Quixote to be his lady, Dulcinea. The women laugh at him and
run away, leading him to suppose that he needs to prove his valour further. Don
Quixote extends unexpected clemency to a gang of prisoners condemned to the
galleys, and they repay him by beating and robbing him. His complaints at the
ingratitude of the criminals lead him to forswear chivalry, and he returns
home, to die in the presence of his friends, his niece and his house-keeper.
Takako Nishizaki is
one of Japan's finest violinists. After studying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki,
she became the first student of Shinichi Suzuki, the creator of the famous
Suzuki Method of violin teaching for children. Subsequently she went to Japan's
famous Toho School of Music, and to the Juilliard School in the United States,
where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is
one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has
recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler Edition, many
contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Ming-xin,
dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin
concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Bériot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and
Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin
Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn,
Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its
distinguished conductors. These include Vaclav Talich (1949-1952), Ludovit
Rajter, Ladislav Slovak and Libor Pešek. Zdenék Košler has also had a long and
distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most
successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvořák.
During the years of
its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the
direction of many of the most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene
Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and
Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for
Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos
labels. These recordings include works by Gliére, Spohr, Respighi, Rubinstein,
Bax, Suchon and Miaskovsky and have brought the orchestra a growing
international reputation and praise from the critics of leading international
Born in Hungary in
1938, Michael Halász began his professional career as principal bassoonist in
the Philharmonia Hungarica, a position he occupied for eight years, before
studying conducting in Essen. His first engagement as a conductor was at the
Munich Gärtnerplatz Theater, where, from 1972 to 1975, he directed all operetta
productions. In 1975 he moved to Frankfurt as principal Kapellmeister under
Christoph von Dohnányi, working with the most distinguished singers and
conducting the most important works of the operatic repertoire. Engagements as
a guest-conductor followed, and in 1977 Dohnányi took him to the Staatsoper in
Hamburg as principal Kapellmeister.
In 1978 Michael Halász
was appointed General Musical Director at the opera-house in Hagen, and there
has further developed his experience of the repertoire. For the Marco Polo
label, Michael Halász has recorded works by Richard Strauss, Anton Rubinstein,
Schreker and Miaskovsky and for Naxos works by Tchaikovsky, Rossini and
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RUBINSTEIN: Violin Concerto, Op. 46 / Don Quixote,...