Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)

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01The Michelangelo Of Music20160201

He was called the Michelangelo of music and was one of the most prolific and charismatic musical figures of the nineteenth century, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Anton Rubinstein. Rubinstein became not only an internationally celebrated composer, his second symphony was one of the most performed symphonies in the second half of the nineteenth century, but he was also a highly talented pianist, second only to Liszt. He took an active role in establishing the Russian Music Society, and was the first Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire which he founded. Yet despite such accolades, including his appointment to the hereditary Russian nobility, Rubinstein came from very poor circumstances. He toured Europe for years giving concerts to packed houses, including private performances for Queen Victoria and a tour of the USA, yet back in Russia he was never far from criticism, particularly from the Nationalist composers who thought his music too Germanic and his efforts mediocre. Rubinstein in his day was a world celebrity and even Liszt called him Van II, suggesting that he might be the illegitimate offspring of Beethoven due to his leonine features and keyboard skills. Yet today he is mostly remembered for one small piano work, his Melody in F, which has been arranged countless times for various ensembles from chamber duo to Jazz band.

Young Anton's musical talents were soon realised by his mother, who engaged a music teacher for her son, Jean Villoing. Villoing took his nine-year-old student on a tour of Europe, including Paris and London where Anton performed for the likes of Queen Victoria. Once he was back in Russia, Rubinstein was also giving concerts at the Winter Palace for Tsar Nicholas I. Around this time the young Rubinstein started composing his own works, although few of these early compositions survive. He recycled an early piano concerto of his into an octet, his Octet in D minor Opus 9.

Rubinstein was back in Europe as a teenager, accompanied by his family who soon returned to Russia. He remained there in Vienna, trying to forge his own career in teaching and performing. It was Liszt who found Anton composing away in a garret, having not eaten for days. Their friendship developed from this point and in turn Rubinstein's career as a musician picked up. With revolution in the air he soon returned to Russia and continued to earn a living through teaching. By 1850 he was completing his first Symphony.

Deux Mélodies Op 3 (No 1 in F major, "Melody in F")

Leslie Howard, piano

The Singer, Op 36 No 7

Joan Rodgers, soprano

Malcolm Martineau, piano

Night, Op 44 No 1a

Six Characteristic Pieces, Op 50 (Barcarolle and Capriccio)

Yaara Tal, piano

Andreas Groethuysen, piano

Octet in D minor Op 9 (Allegro non troppo and Vivace)

Consortium Classicum

Symphony No 1 in F major Op 40 (Allegro)

Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra

Robert Stankovsky, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod focuses on Rubinstein's early years, including a friendship with Liszt.

02A Spy In London20160202

Donald Macleod explores the rift caused by an article Rubinstein wrote about Russian music

He was called the Michelangelo of music, and was one of the most prolific and charismatic musical figures of the nineteenth century, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Anton Rubinstein.

Rubinstein in the 1850s was trying to carve out a living for himself by giving piano lessons in St Petersburg, and also occasionally conducting a student orchestra too. He had also started work on an opera about a 14th-century Russian hero Dmitry Donskoy. It was a long struggle to get the opera accepted by the Director of the Imperial Theatres, but it was eventually staged in 1852. The score was subsequently lost, except for the dramatic Overture.

The Grand Duchess Yelena Pavlovna, who was the sister of Tsar Nicholas I, attended a performance of Rubinstein's early opera and she soon invited him to spend the summer at her palace, Kammenniy Ostrov. Here she held a number of musical soirées, and Rubinstein composed a collection of solo piano works, his Opus 10, which were musical portraits of the ladies at court.

Rubinstein was encouraged to frequently visit the Grand Duchess, not only in Russia, but also at her villa in Nice. It was here that, during discussions, the idea of establishing the Russian Music Society was born. It was also around this time that Rubinstein wrote an article on Russian music, which greatly offended a number of the Nationalist composers. This rift would continue for the rest of Rubinstein's life, and one of his works which they greatly criticised, was his Second Symphony, given the descriptive title of "The Ocean". This symphony was one of the most performed symphonies during the second half of the nineteenth century, alongside Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms.

Trot de Cavalerie

Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra

George Hanson, conductor

Overture to Dmitry Donskoy

George Enescu State Philharmonic Orchestra

Horia Andreescu, conductor

Kamennïy-ostrov Op 10 (Romance and Allegro non troppo)

Joseph Banowetz, piano

String Quartet No 2 in C minor Op 17 (Moderato)

The Royal String Quartet Copenhagen

Symphony No 2 Op 42 "The Ocean" (Allegro and Andante)

Producer Luke Whitlock.

03The Court Jester20160203

He was called the Michelangelo of music, and was one of the most prolific and charismatic musical figures of the nineteenth century, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Anton Rubinstein.

Rubinstein described himself as a Court Jester, referring to his work for the Grand Duchess Yelena Pavlovna. He was employed to entertain at her court, including accompanying singers and chamber musicians. One of the chamber works he composed around this time, 1857, was his second Cello Sonata. It was in discussions held at a villa in Nice belonging to the Grand Duchess, that the Russian Music Society was founded, and it held its first classes in 1860.

In between a busy performing and composing schedule, Rubinstein was also working on another opera at this time, Feramors, although he was keen to do more for music in Russia. Rubinstein came up with the idea of founding the St Petersburg Conservatoire, although to begin with it had to be called a school. He became its first Director and often had to stand up to the Grand Duchess, who as one of the principal funders thought she should have more of a say in how the conservatoire was run. Causing much pleasure for his critics, the Nationalist composers, Rubinstein resigned from the conservatoire in 1867. It was during this busy period of the 1860s, whilst still working hard as Director of the Conservatoire, that not only did Rubinstein get married, but he also composed his most frequently recorded piano concerto, the Fourth, Opus 70.

The Cloud Op 48

Mila Shkirtil, mezzo-soprano

Mikhail Lukonin, baritone

Yuri Serov, piano

Cello Sonata No 2 in G major Op 39 (Allegretto)

Jirí Bárta, cello

Hamish Milne, piano

Feramors (Torchlight Dance of the Brides from Kashmir)

State Symphony Orchestra

Igor Golovchin, conductor

Album de Peterhof Op 75 No 9 (Prelude in D)

Joseph Banowetz, piano

Piano Concerto No 4 in D minor Op 70

Joseph Moog, piano

German State Philharmonic of Rhineland-Palatinate

Nicholas Milton, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod focuses on Rubinstein's time spent at the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

04Touring The Usa20160204

Donald Macleod focuses on Rubinstein's tours of the USA and the UK.

He was called the Michelangelo of music, and was one of the most prolific and charismatic musical figures of the nineteenth century, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Anton Rubinstein.

Rubinstein during the 1870s was busy touring Europe as a concert pianist. Saint-Saëns said of him that he was a lion at the keyboard, who stroked the keyboard in sheathed claws. Back in Russia he was becoming increasingly successful as a composer and performer and was awarded the Order of St Vladimir and then, later, elevated to the hereditary nobility. It was during this period that Rubinstein was working on his orchestral picture of a knight, Don Quixote.

Soon Rubinstein would find himself on tour in the USA, giving over two hundred concerts. Following this he made a tour of the UK, where British audiences shouted their appreciation for him. During his time in London he performed for Queen Victoria, and also met George Eliot, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde and Sir John Millais. Returning home to his Peterhof villa, with his popularity in Russia at an all-time high Rubinstein set about working on another symphony, his Fourth, Opus 95, titled the 'Dramatic'.

Piano Quartet in C major Op 66 (Allegro vivace)

Leslie Howard, piano

Rita Manning, violin

Morgan Goff, viola

Justin Pearson, cello

Don Quixote Op 87

Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra

George Hanson, conductor

The Demon (Act II, Romance: On the oceans of the air)

René Pape, bass

Staatskapelle Dresden

Sebastian Weigle, conductor

Album de Peterhof Op 75 No 12 (Scherzo in F major)

Joseph Banowetz, piano

Symphony No 4 in D minor Op 95 "Dramatic" (Largo - Allegro con fuoco)

State Symphony Orchestra of Russia

Igor Golovchin, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

05A Return To The St Petersburg Conservatoire20160205

Donald Macleod on Rubinstein's return to the St Petersburg Conservatoire as its director.

He was called the Michelangelo of music, and was one of the most prolific and charismatic musical figures of the nineteenth century, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Anton Rubinstein.

During the 1880s Rubinstein was active not only as a composer and concert pianist, but also as a conductor of his own works around Europe, including the operas Nero and Feramors. His opera The Demon has been credited as the first Russian opera ever heard in Britain, performed around this time at Covent Garden. Never one to sit idle, by 1887 Rubinstein returned to the St Petersburg Conservatoire again as its Director. He didn't give up composing and by 1890 was completing a second book of solo piano works called Akrostichon.

Towards the end of Rubinstein's life there were many celebrations in Russia for his sixtieth birthday, and also for the anniversary of his first public appearance in Moscow fifty years earlier. It was during one banquet in Rubinstein's honour that he publically argued with Tchaikovsky. The Tsar awarded Rubinstein a lifetime pension of three thousand roubles, but all was not harmony in the Rubinstein household, and he eventually separated from his wife and moved to Berlin. Not long after came the death of one of his sons, and not long after that Rubinstein himself died at his house in Peterhof in 1894.The proceeds of his final concerts, performing piano works such as his Serenade Russe, were all given to charity. The Times obituary spoke of a man superb of generosity and unselfishness.

Sérénade russe in B minor

Joseph Banowetz, piano

Symphony No 5 in G minor Op 107 (Moderato assai)

George Enescu State Philharmonic Orchestra

Horia Andreescu, conductor

Tambourine Op 76 No 6

Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano

Semyon Skigin, piano

Akrostichon No 2 Op 114 No 1 (Andante con moto)

Akrostichon No 2 Op 114 No 2 (Allegretto)

Akrostichon No 2 Op 114 No 3 (Andante con moto Tempo di mazurka)

Piano Concerto No 2 in F major Op 35

Alexander Paley, piano

State Symphony Orchestra of Russia

Igor Golovchin, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.