Concert pour le Violon Op. 46
Concerto in G major for Violin and Orchestra, op. 46 (1857)
(b. Vikhvatinets, 28 November 1829 – d. Peterhof, nr. St. Petersburg, 20. November 1894)
Moderato assai p.3
Moderato assai p.35
As in Germany, Russian art music of the nineteenth century fell into two opposing camps: the so-called “Mighty Handful” (including Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), who sought to develop a national Russian music based on the tradition of Mikhail Glinka, and the “Westerners,” including the brothers Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein and later Peter Tchaikovsky,1 who took their stylistic and generic bearings on the classical-romantic tradition of western Europe.
One of Anton Rubinstein’s major accomplishments was to professionalize musical life in Russia, making it possible to pursue the ideals of western art music. An important milestone was the founding of the conservatories in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where the Rubinstein brothers played signal roles as initiators and stimulators.2 Both institutions developed into musical training centers of international stature whose high reputation continues to the present day.
But it was not only in Russia that Anton Rubinstein gained great esteem during his lifetime. He was also active in western Europe and the USA as a composer, pianist, and conductor.3 Besides concert tours, he occupied the prestigious post of artistic director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (1871-72),4 which was then already considered the world capital of music. To the end of his days he maintained friendly relations with such famous musical contemporaries as Franz Liszt and the violinist Henryk Wieniawski.5 It was the latter who received the dedication of his G-major Violin Concerto (op. 46), hereby published in full score.
Like most of Rubinstein’s works, the Violin Concerto 1857 reflects his orientation on western European art music. Its formal design and the shaping of its movements clearly reveal features of the nineteenth-century concerto, pursuing a line of tradition that largely derives from the works of Ludwig van Beethoven and became de rigueur for later generations of composers. Its formal outline follows the fast-slow-fast sequence of movements typical of the nineteenth-century concerto. Moreover, the opening movement and the finale reveal essential sonata-form elements characteristic of the classical and romantic periods.
Though written for a virtuoso (the aforementioned Henryk Wieniawski), Rubinstein’s op. 46 cannot be classified as a typical “virtuoso concerto,” where the focus lies on the display of virtuosity and the predominance of the soloist while the orchestra merely adds a subordinate accompaniment. Elements less suitable for virtuoso display are underplayed, including the slow middle movement, which was often very short and functioned as an introduction to the finale, where the soloist could again indulge in pyrotechnic virtuosity.6
In contrast, Rubinstein’s piece has many features associated with the symphonic concerto, where the soloist and the orchestra confront each other as equal partners and are sometimes tightly interwoven. This is already evident in the opening: after twenty-four bars the solo violin intrudes into the orchestral exposition, giving rise to a dialogue between soloist and orchestra that culminates in the statement of the main theme by the violin. That the orchestral exposition lacks the secondary thematic group, which is set aside for the solo exposition, grants the soloist more leeway to expand, but without suppressing the orchestra. On the contrary, the solo violin and orchestra sometimes combine forces to sustain the melodic writing. Yet Rubinstein succeeds in imparting an individual voice to the work by deftly deviating from formal norms. Features of the symphonic concerto also come to the fore in the finale, in the passages for solo clarinet.
All in all, the character of the solo part is marked less by playful acrobatics than by graceful lyricism and cantabile. This is especially true of the traditional slow middle movement, which, being minimally shorter than the outside movements, attains signal importance in the formal design.
Rubinstein’s Violin Concerto was first published by C. F. Peters of Leipzig in November 1859.7 It was unable to find a lasting place in the repertoire, however, and attracted little attention in the nineteenth century, and thus near the time of its origin. A revealing example of this can be found in Bernhard Vogel’s monograph of 1888, which has this to say of Rubinstein’s concertos:
“Rubinstein also took an active interest in several solo instruments. The literature lists a violin concerto from his pen as well as two for the cello. There is no need to discuss why neither the one nor the others have attracted the lasting attention of violinists or cellists and acquired rights of citizenship in the concert hall.”8
One reason for the wallflower existence of the Violin Concerto is doubtless its restrained handling of virtuosity, whereas its other qualities evidently went unappreciated. The authoritative musicologist Arnold Schering, for example, remarked in the 1920s that the work “suffers from a want of ingratiating virtuoso effects for the violin.”9
This is not the place to judge whether these criticisms are warranted or not. Whatever the case, Rubinstein’s Violin Concerto merits rediscovery if only for its graceful beauty and lyrical elegance. The present volume – a faithful reproduction of the conductor’s score published by C. F. Peters – is intended to provide just such an opportunity.
Translation: Bradford Robinson
1 Wolfram Steinbeck: Die Symphonie im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert 1: Romantische und nationale Symphonik (Laaber: Laaber, 2000), p. 257.
2 See Kadja Grönke’s entry on Rubinštejn in Ludwig Finscher, ed.: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart:
Personenteil 14 (Kassel: Bärenreiter; Stuttgart: Metzler, 2005), cols. 595 and 599.
3 Ibid., col. 595.
4 Ibid., cols. 594f.
5 Ibid., col. 594.
6 Michael Thomas Roeder: Das Konzert (Laaber: Laaber, 2000), p. 187.
7 Friedrich Hofmeister: Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht neuer Musikalien, musikalischer Schriften und Abbildungen für das Jahr 1859 (1859), p. 174.
8 Bernhard Vogel: Anton Rubinstein: Biographischer Abriss nebst Charakteristik seiner Werke (Leipzig: Hesse, 1888), p. 78.
9 Arnold Schering: Geschichte des Instrumentalkonzerts bis auf die Gegenwart (Leipzig, 21927; repr. Hildesheim: Olms; Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1988), p. 211.
For performance material please contact Peters, Leipzig. Reprint of a copy from the Musikabteilung der Leipziger Städtischen Bibliotheken, Leipzig.
Violin & Orchestra
210 x 297 mm