Rubinstein, Anton


Rubinstein, Anton

Overture to the opera Dimitri Donskoi Op. 111

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Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein – Ouverture de l’Opéra Dimitri Donskoi, op. 111

(28 November [O.S. 16 November] 1829, Vykhvatintsy, Podolia, Russia [now in the Transnistria borderland of Moldavia]– 20 November [O.S. 8 November] 1894, Peterhof, Saint Petersburg, Russia)

Composed: 1850
Context: the overture was composed first; the opera was proposed in 1850, but was blocked by censors until significant changes were made to the libretto
 Premiere: 1850 concert performance of the overture
First performance preceding the full opera: four stagings in St. Petersburg in 1852
Publications: Berlin & Posen: Ed. Bote & G. Bock [1865], plate 6489
Orchestration: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 B-flat clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets in G, 4 horns in F, 3 trombones, timpani, strings

Best known as the founder of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Anton Rubinstein was one of the great nineteenth-century keyboard virtuosos. The summit of his performing career was a series of seven consecutive “Historical Recitals” covering the history of piano music. He presented these throughout Eastern Europe and the United States as a “Steinway artist,” receiving as much as 200 dollars (in gold) per concert, plus all expenses. Each recital could feature as many as eight full piano sonatas, plus encores: they made powerful impressions on fellow pianists from Clara Schumann to the young Sergei Rachmaninoff. The first recital of each series included selections by Byrd, Bull, Couperin, Rameau, Scarlatti, and Bach. In addition to virtuosity and an encyclopedic memory, he was praised for his tone, sensuous style of playing, and stamina: he gave a total of 215 American concerts in 239 days (sometimes as many as three per day), and he invested the proceeds in real estate near Saint Petersburg.

Anton Rubinstein was born 150 kilometers northwest of Odessa and raised in the Russian Orthodox faith. His family converted from Judaism and he was baptized when he was five, although he later became an atheist. He was educated in Moscow (1834-39) and Paris (1839-40) where he played for Chopin and Liszt. After a three-year concert tour of Europe and a shorter tour of Russia, Anton (age fourteen) and his brother Nikolai (age eight) played for Tsar Nicholas I and the Imperial family at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. …


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