Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No.1 in A minor, Op. 65
(b. Vikhvatinets, Ukraine, 28 Nov.1829 – d. Peterhof nr. St. Petersburg, 20 Nov. 1894)
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No.1 in A minor Op. 65
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein was a fixture of the European classical music community for much of his life. Beginning with his debut performance at age 9, Rubinstein’s charisma as a pianist fueled a relentless tour schedule throughout his lifetime. The ferocity and drama of his performances invited constant comparisons to Beethoven, resulting in the nickname “Van II” from those who had seen performances from both (perhaps unsurprisingly, Beethoven’s piano sonatas comprised a significant portion of his performance programs). Similar to Beethoven, he was regarded as a premier performer of his time, though his reception was not always universally positive.
Sergei Rachmaninoff recalls, “It was not so much his magnificent technique that held one spellbound as the profound, spiritually refined musicianship, which spoke from every note and every bar he played and singled him out as the most original and unequalled pianist in the world.” A commentary from the Music Trade Review (1879), however, takes a less reverential tone, “Anton Rubinstein was and is the most unequal pianist (comparatively speaking) who has ever delighted or wearied an intelligent audience…when at his best he absolutely defied criticism…when at his worst, it is something absolutely fearful.” A Philadelphia-based critic expressed a similar sentiment after one of his performances, “although the minutes of sublimity may balance the minutes of mediocrity, the impression left is one of extreme dissatisfaction.”
Surprisingly, this free playing, almost tantamount to rebellion to audiences of the time, stands in contrast to his well-behaved oeuvre as a composer. His early instruction in composition by Siegfried Dehn, in addition to his interactions with Felix Mendelssohn, during his formative, early years in Berlin studying as a child prodigy led to Rubinstein, the composer, developing squarely within the Western European tradition. While this solid grounding in musical theory proved instrumental to his successful establishment of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, it also provided a significant barrier to his self-actualization as a writer of music. Indeed, it was largely in response to the traditional, European approach of both Rubinstein and his pupils (perhaps most famous among them Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky) at the St. Petersburg conservatory that Balakirev gathered the “Mighty Handful” (Cui, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and himself) to find a distinctly Russian Sound.
Despite the conformity of his compositional mechanics, his dramatic approach as a concert pianist found outlet in the craft of poignant melodies, increasingly present in his later, more enduring works. A young Rubinstein had written to Barholff Senff, the Leipzig-based publisher, in June 1857 expressing his desire to compose both a violin and a cello concerto, though the violin concerto (Op. 46 in G, ultimately published by C.F. Peters in 1859) was completed first. Largely regarded as a pedestrian effort with an overriding similarity to Mendelssohn, the violin concerto typified his early reluctance to branch out beyond the foundational works he had studied as a student.
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Solo Instrument(s) & Orchestra
210 x 297 mm